Opposition plots massive protests

Opposition plots massive protests

Source: Opposition plots massive protests – DailyNews Live

Mugove Tafirenyika and Gift Phiri      3 March 2017

HARARE – Angry opposition parties coalescing under the banner of the
National Electoral Reform Agenda (Nera) will hold mass protests on March
22, to force the government to abandon its plans to hijack the procurement
of biometric voter registration (BVR) kits for next year’s make-or-break
national elections.

This comes amid grave concerns that the controversial decision by the
government to take over the procurement process of the BVR kits from the
United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) is a thinly-disguised attempt
to rig the 2018 polls.

This is more so after opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai said earlier
this week that Mugabe and his warring ruling Zanu PF were already
allegedly working feverishly to steal next year’s watershed elections.

Nera’s head of legal affairs, Douglas Mwonzora, told the Daily News
yesterday that they had been left “with no option but to protest” after
the government’s suspicious decision to hijack the BVR procurement
process.

“We have therefore set the 22nd of March as the date for a massive
demonstration against this political abomination and we call upon all
responsible Zimbabweans regardless of their political affiliation to rise
up against this thuggery.

“We can ill-afford another stolen election next year. Depending on
government’s reaction, the Harare protests will trigger more countrywide
demonstrations and we are certainly aware that the authorities will
respond with their usual heavy-handedness, but we are not afraid anymore.

“The demonstration will define whether Zimbabweans will make progress or
will forever be confined to poverty under this regime,” Mwonzora, who is
also the secretary-general of the MDC, said.

Controversy has erupted over the past few weeks following the government’s
sudden decision to sideline the UNDP from assisting in the procurement of
the BVR kits, with unanswered questions being raised about how and where
the stone-broke administration was able to secure funding for this, to the
staggering tune of $17 million.

A tender was floated in December and interested companies had an
opportunity to present their bids through a process that was
digitally-managed from Copenhagen, Denmark.

However, following the conclusion of the bidding process, the government
announced two weeks ago that it would fund the purchase of the equipment,
after pumping in $17 million.

This raised eye brows, with the opposition alleging that the government
was hijacking the process to rig next year’s eagerly-anticipated national
elections.

Last week, Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa told Parliament that the
government was providing the funds required to buy the equipment, and that
it was not booting out the UNDP.

But Mwonzora said opposition parties were certain the move by the
government “marks the commencement of a well-planned rigging system for
2018 in which Mnangagwa is central”.

“What we are saying is that Mnangagwa lied in Parliament because we know
he is part of the grand design to steal the election,” Mwonzora said.

This week, during his tour of Mashonaland East, Tsvangirai was told of an
alleged elaborate plan by Zanu PF to rig next year’s polls, including
misrepresenting to the villagers about the functioning of the BVR kits.

Tsvangirai’s spokesperson Luke Tamborinyoka said the former prime minister
during the era of the stability-inducing government of national unity was
gravely concerned by the “overwhelming information” that the MDC had
received, which pointed to the fact that Zanu PF was “already in the
process of stealing next year’s elections”.

“There is a plan by Zanu PF to steal next year’s elections. We have been
on the ground here in Mashonaland East and what we are seeing and hearing
is that Zanu PF wants to steal the next elections again, after they took
over the BVR process, in addition to commandeering chiefs, village heads
and headmen on board this devious scheme.

“However, we will do all that we can to ensure that traditional leaders
are not abused and absorbed into Zanu PF structures? Indeed, the rights of
traditional leaders must and will be observed,” the resolute Tamborinyoka
said.

Traditional chief after traditional chief had apparently told Tsvangirai
during his tour of the restive Mashonaland East province, which is
traditionally a Zanu PF stronghold, that they were being forced to not
only join the ruling party, but to also lead its cells and wards – and to
actively work to help rig next year’s polls.

“The fearful village heads all said they were forced to be chairpersons of
Zanu PF’s cells. That way, Zanu PF will coerce them to frog-march people
to vote for the ruling party.

“So, the sum total of Zanu PF’s ploy is that it is assimilating
traditional leaders into its partisan structures, abusing them in the
process,” Tamborinyoka added.

And during his meetings in Mukumbura, Mashonaland Central, on Wednesday,
village heads, pastors and civic leaders also told Tsvangirai how Zanu PF
had allegedly manipulated the hotly-disputed 2013 polls.

It was claimed that Zanu PF had won the vote by directing voters to give
their ballot-paper serial numbers to their headmen, who had marshalled the
villagers to the polling stations and made them queue in a predetermined
order.

Speaker after speaker spoke of how endemic fear and the rampant
intimidation of communities, as well as the abuse of traditional leaders
by Zanu PF had forced them to do the ruling party’s dirty bidding.

The Daily News was also told how a retired policeman had told Tsvangirai
how he was allegedly forced to be an assisted voter, adding that several
literate teachers and school heads had also been assisted to vote by known
Zanu PF youths.

This comes as observer group, the Zimbabwe Election Support Network
(Zesn), has asked the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) “to interrogate
the huge numbers of assisted voters” in the 2013 poll.

Tamborinyoka also said community leaders had told the opposition leader of
how they were often forced to engage in partisan food distribution and to
coerce and frog-march people to vote for Zanu PF.

It was also claimed that during election times, villages were overwhelmed
by Mozambicans who were allegedly provided with Zimbabwean identity cards
to enable them to vote for Zanu PF.

“It was heartening to hear forsaken communities pledging to finish it all
off by voting in a new dispensation in the watershed election of 2018,”
Tamborinyoka said, adding that his boss had urged them to turn out in
their numbers to register to vote so that they could vote for change.

Since last year, the MDC – working with other opposition parties through
Nera – has been demanding comprehensive electoral reforms to level the
political playing field.

It has also been engaging Zec, which it says is infested with Zanu PF
functionaries who are there only to look after the interests of the ruling
party.

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