From issued-based to voodoo-based elections

And one is left to question why the MDC Alliance, which has been frenetically campaigning around the country, left it until after the elections were proclaimed in order to push for the changes they want.

Yep! The silly season is now officially here.

It is going to be a tortuous and crazy 57-day ride to Election Day.

Since military tanks rolled onto the streets on November 14 last year to push back an iron-clad epoch, the new political administration has demonstrably tried to banish the toxic politics of old through introducing a fraternal brand of politics, where bestial acrimony gives way to civility; where dialogue replaces quarrels and where insults give way to respect.

The past 18 years have been quite tumultuous, but necessarily so, for reclaiming the land.

A momentous shift in the ownership of the primary means of production was, and still is, never an easy exercise.

Some acknowledge that the land reform exercise was necessary, but dismissively claim that the method with which it was carried out was messy.

Of course, there wasn’t going to be a textbook template.

No sane person would have ever volunteered to ride the death-on-wings contraption manufactured by the Wright brothers in 1903 in the name of making the world’s first airplane — the Wright Flyer.

But the ground-breaking invention was euphorically celebrated then. Only in hindsight can we afford to be dismissive.

Even where a template exists, dealing with such emotive issues is never easy.

South Africa and Namibia are some of the countries that are grappling to redistribute their land to landless blacks.

As we speak, South Africa’s ruling ANC is trying to test Section 25 of the country’s constitution to try and expropriate land without compensation.

Fortunately for Zimbabwe, these are now issues of the past.

There is a new urgency to grow the economy, lift the people out of poverty and carve out a modern prosperous democracy.

In the circumstances, looking forward to an issue-based election, especially at a time when the country is looking for new aspirational goals, becomes a legitimate expectation.

Zanu-PF unveiled its manifesto exactly a month ago, on May 4, and the market has been digesting it ever since.

It is observably the main document on which the Zanu-PF campaign message, as demonstrated by President Mnangagwa’s recent rallies, has been tethered.

It has however been different from opposition parties; and it has been quite telling since there are always new revelations at each campaign rally.

The market — the investing community, foreign governments, fund managers and most importantly, the electorate — has been waiting, and is still waiting.

So, for the electorate, the envisaged marketplace for policy ideas is still incipient, and a vibrant debate will therefore have to be suspended for another day.

A lot needs to be debated and digested by an electorate that is presently plagued by irritating but stubborn cash shortages, intermittent water supplies, homelessness and a clearly ailing health delivery system.

But all these are symptoms of a huge debt overhang of more than $10 billion, worsened by $1,8 billion in arrears to international financiers, including sanctions from the US.

Instead of assessing the efficacy and effectiveness of the various parties’ policy proposals, the opposition MDC Alliance seems fixated with the issue of the chemical composition of the ballot paper, the sincerity of ZEC — notwithstanding that it is a constitutional creature conjured by the opposition parties through the 2013 Constitution — and the voters roll.

As absurd as it might sound, the MDC Alliance believes that there is an elaborate plan to supply ballot papers that can mutate after they are cast and by some form of inexplicable witchcraft, determine the number of votes casts, and at the same time distributing votes accordingly across all the political parties for local, parliamentary and Presidential candidates, while, all the while, making sure that Zanu-PF gets a hefty majority.

Yes, it has become a voodoo-based election.

And for good measure to ensure that that does not happen, the MDC Alliance will “bring into the streets guys from Mbare Musika” on June 5.

Curiously, how this will happen, especially after the elections have been proclaimed, is anyone’s guess.

Section 157(5) of the Constitution expressly states that “after an election has been called, no change to the Electoral Law or to any other law relating to elections has effect for the purposes of that election.”

And one is left to question why the MDC Alliance, which has been frenetically campaigning around the country, left it until after the elections were proclaimed in order to push for the changes they want.

Further, Section 235 (1) (a) says independent commissions such as ZEC “are independent and are not subject to the direction or control of anyone.”

Section 235 (3) further adds that “no person may interfere with the functioning of independent commissions.”

Again, the issue of procuring ballot papers is unambiguously dealt with in the same Constitution through Section 239(g), which states that ZEC is mandated to “design, print and distribute papers, approve the form and procure ballot boxes and establish and operate polling centres.”

But in a seeming gesture of goodwill, ZEC’s new chairperson Justice Priscilla Chigumba announced on May 18 that the political parties will be allowed to observe the printing of the ballot papers.

And she rightly noted it was a discretionary decision.

Quite clearly, the MDC Alliance is legally entitled to pursue grievances before the courts, but it must also help drive robust debate.

Granted, there are hardcore party activists across the political divide who, even if their preferred candidate is certified insane, are prepared to vote for the candidates and their parties regardless.

Their positions remain intractable.

But they are those voters, who are not card carrying members, seeking to interpret which political party, particularly at this juncture in our country’s history, will serve their interests.

 

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