Watching Zimbabwe’s approach to the promised free, fair, transparent and credible election is like watching a train rushing full speed at a brick wall. Every day a new scandal emerges in the election process but still we rush on towards the brick wall in a train driven by ZEC (Zimbabwe Electoral Commission).
Every election in Zimbabwe makes us a laughing stock, regionally and internationally. First there’s the voters roll which NewsDay reported had been scrutinized by “an independent team of BVR, electoral administration, human rights and data science experts… they claimed that they unearthed several discrepancies, indicating that over 250,000 ghost voters were on the roll.” ZEC dismissed the findings as “fictitious.”
Then we hear that Zimbabwe’s latest claim to fame is that we’ve got two of the world’s oldest people right here and they’re on the voters roll! This amazing, miraculous feat is occurring in the same country where life expectancy, according to the World Health Organization, is 59 years for men and 62 for women. Somehow, somewhere, out there in the deep rural depths of Zimbabwe, is obviously the secret to immortality.
Next in our electoral litany of outrage came news that bulk SMS messages campaigning for votes had been sent out by Zanu PF to individuals who were identified by their names, constituencies and wards. This was surely information that could only have come from the voters roll held by ZEC? “How did Zanu PF get our phone numbers?” was the scream from opposition members who then took to the streets of Harare in their thousands complaining about all the electoral inconsistencies.
Then there’s the ballot papers which are still the cause of huge contention with opposition parties whose concerns over the design, paper, printing and safe storage and movement have not been addressed. ZEC have gone ahead and printed an as yet unknown number of ballot papers. Specimen samples that have appeared on the internet show that the 23 contesting presidential candidates, arranged alphabetically by surname, are not in two columns of 12 and 11 but in columns of 14 on the left and 12 on the right which, unsurprisingly, puts Mnangawa, E D (Zanu PF) at the top of the right hand column.
Then there’s the postal and special voting used for police and polling agents who will be on duty and away from their constituencies on voting day. Strangely, despite no agreement on the ballot papers and within just one day of ZEC saying that printing was complete, ballot papers had turned up and were being used at police stations for postal ballots in the absence of electoral officials and polling agents. ZEC denied this was happening, calling it “hogwash” and “ stupid.” When opposition parties showed cell phone footage of voting underway at a police station in Bulawayo, ZEC were left with egg on their face. Challenged over the absence of electoral officials at the police camp, ZEC’s Acting Chief Elections Officer Mr Silaigwana gave this obtuse response: “There is nothing wrong with the absence of ZEC there because remember let us say someone is in Darfur on peace keeping mission or someone is at the embassy in the United States, do you think ZEC can be in all those places?” He didn’t explain why ZEC wasn’t on site in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe or what Bulawayo ballots had to do with Darfur. Bulawayo isn’t in Darfur, is it?
Then there’s the sweeteners being used to persuade people to vote for you. Long practiced in Zimbabwe, vote buying used to be done with things like maize meal, dried beans or cooking oil that politicians gave out to solicit votes; this year its cars for chiefs and pay rises for government workers. This week the government announced a pay rise, called a “special allowance,” of 22.5%,to members of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces (Army and Air Force); 20% to the police and 17.5% to members of the civil service. There was no explanation as to why the army would be getting more than teachers and doctors.
Of course the question we’re all asking is where are they (the Zanu PF government) getting all the money from in a country that’s got a national debt of US$13 billion (NewsDay) and the entire population is trading with brown coins (5 and 10 cent denominations) which you stand for hours in queues to get at banks with no money.