There is a common lament that Zimbabwe is in perpetual election mode, something akin to the Cheney-Rumsfeld-Wolfowitz doctrine of never ending war.
It is a doctrine that has worked wonders for the United States’ economy, ensuring billions of dollars flow into the pockets of the elites and sufficient crumbs fall off the table to keep the rednecks happily ignorant.
The United States believes in never ending war as a pillar for its economy, packaging the doctrine as spreading democracy — the great experiment Thomas Jefferson waxed lyrical about.
Certain things have to be done to “protect” American “freedoms”, a certain price has to be paid for “democracy”.
In Washington’s case, the price is blood.
For Zimbabwe, the lament is also about the high cost of democracy.
Elections cost money, and we all know that money is hard to come by.
As Finance and Economic Development Minister Patrick Chinamasa — who can be unsettlingly forthright when the lawyer in him emerges from the shackles of his politician’s suit – once remarked, when an activist journalist confronted him with a self-outraged question on the cost of elections: “Democracy is expensive!”
When the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission asks for a few million bucks so that even the most uninformed of dunces can have an equal say in the country’s future, there are loud howls.
In the 2017 National Budget, Finance Minister Patrick Chinamasa gave the electoral body about US$10 million.
ZEC — like a little Oliver Twist — wanted more, something closer to US$60 million.
After all, there is an election coming round next year and preparations have to be made.
According to 2015 data from the National Institute for Legislative Studies, the United States spent US$7 billion on its 2012 polls, Kenya spent US$427 million that year.
Ok, those countries are far larger than Zimbabwe and their economies are on another plane so comparison is not the point here; it’s just illustrative data, right?
Well, the institute estimates that Zimbabwe spent US$132,5 million on the 2013 harmonised elections, the polls that ended the inclusive Government, obliterated the opposition, and delivered a landslide to President Mugabe and Zanu-PF.
That figure, theoretically, translated to a spend of US$22 per voter.
The highest spend-per-voter in Southern Africa is found in Botswana (US$28 in 2006), while South Africa reportedly spends about US$8 per voter.
We think it is an investment worth making, an investment in democracy that comes at a cost far lower than that of our American friends.
Ours was blood-bought 37 years ago, we no longer have to pay that price.
All we have to do now is shell out some cash and our wise men and dunces can elect their wise men and dunces.
So while others may say Zimbabwe is perpetually in election mode, we beg to differ.
Zimbabweans love their politics. They can seamlessly move from a conversation about Dynamos to one about biometric voter registration.
Which is why we ask that the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission be sufficiently resourced as the country heads to the 2018 harmonised elections.
It may seem the call is coming rather early, but that is because we believe in meticulous preparation being one of the bedrocks of sound outcomes.
Look what meticulous preparation has done for agriculture this past summer season.
Are we not reaping the dividend of planning and investment in the smiles on our farmers’ faces and the balances in their bank accounts?
There is much work that the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission needs to do in terms of voter education, voter registration, acquisition of materials and equipment, planning for ward-based polling stations and the million other things that the fine men and women at the institution need to do ahead of voting day.
It is in the State’s best interest to be well prepared so as to stave off the usual accusations from the usual quarters about an ill-planned election — the same quarters that grumble about the cost of democracy.
A well-planned election contributes to electoral legitimacy, which in turn contributes to stability and investor/business confidence.
Which makes it an investment well worth making.
There is no cash price that can be higher than the blood that was already paid to buy democracy in 1980.
Let’s do ourselves a favour and pay that cash price.
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