A few days ago, I came across a video capturing a ZANU PF aspiring MP (member of parliament) intimidating the rural electorate into voting for no one else except President Emmerson Dambudzo Mnangagwa and his party.
Tendai Ruben Mbofana
In the viral video, the aspiring MP alleged that, registration numbers – designated to every one who registered to vote – could be used during ballot counting to determine for whom each specific individual voted.
He further threatened unspecified dire consequences for all those discovered to have voted for the opposition – in this case, the CCC, led by Nelson Chamisa.
After watching this utterly disturbing and disgusting video, I immediately sent it to EU election observers, with whom I am in contact – as they needed to know and understand the woefully flawed nature of our elections in Zimbabwe.
Of course, these despicable and disgraceful acts of intimidation – more so, through lying to less educated rural communities, on the supposed ability of the ruling establishment to ascertain one’s voting choices – are not knew and uncommon at all.
This has been the hallmark of the ruling party’s mechanisms for forcing – through the instilling of fear – rural folk into supporting ZANU PF.
We all know that traditional and ruling party leaders are at the forefront of all these deplorable shenanigans.
I have personally received information from some of my readers, in rural areas, on the various tactics employed in intimidating and terrorizing their communities.
These range from abusing and politicizing handouts, food aid, and agricultural inputs – to brute violence or threats of violence.
The same measures have been used to force villagers into attending ZANU PF rallies – who are bussed hundreds of kilometers away – especially when being addressed by Mnangagwa.
These are the people who make up all those so-called ‘bumper crowds’, of which the ruling party always boasts.
Nevertheless, what bothers me the most is the apparent deafening silence by the electoral body – the ZEC (Zimbabwe Electoral Commission) – in the face of such brazen intimidation of the electorate, through lies of one’s vote not being a secret after all.
Why is the commission not out there actively and visibly dispelling these flagrant lies?
Why are they not even bringing those responsible to book?
I have been seeing some advertisements on the state broadcaster, ZBC – in which ZEC urges people to vote in the 23rd August 2023 harmonized elections.
In these commercials, the electorate are informed on the times at which the elections will be held (07:00 to 19:00 hrs), what identification documents are acceptable, and the process of casting one’s ballot.
That is all well and good.
However, I would have thought that this was the most appropriate platform for ZEC to loudly and unambiguously quash any misinformation and disinformation regarding this voting process.
Considering that these lies – over the ability, on the part of the ZANU PF regime, of knowing who voted for whom – are common knowledge, the electoral commission should go out of its way in clearing the air.
Nonetheless, this is not the case.
Is this silence not only troubling, but also overly suspicious?
It would appear, at least to me, that the commission is agreeable with the continued peddling of these lies.
Again, I ask, for what purpose?
Let us remember that ZEC has not been trusted by some sections of the Zimbabwe population, for a while now, as a truly credible, independent and impartial electoral body.
The commission has, for a very long time, been regarded as a mere appendage of the ruling establishment – out to ensure a ZANU PF victory at any cost.
Such lack of confidence in ZEC is not altogether without foundation.
There have been numerous accusations – such as the failure or refusal in releasing an auditable voters’ roll, suspicious registration and movements of voters in the same roll, and a questionable delimitation exercise.
The same mistrust is what instigated the most regrettable violent scenes witnessed on 1st August 2018 – after a perceived delay in announcing presidential election results – leading to the shooting, in cold blood, of scores of unarmed protestors by state security agents.
If ZEC genuinely desires to mend its tattered image in the eyes of ordinary Zimbabweans, then there is need to urgently show itself to be keen on conducting truly free, fair and credible elections on 23rd August.
This includes, but definitely not limited to, feverishly and earnestly dispelling all the misinformation and disinformation being willfully spread by ZANU PF on the secrecy of the ballot.
We need to see adverts and nationwide awareness campaigns – in all vernacular languages – educating voters on the privacy and secrecy of their electoral choices.
With just over a week to go to the elections, the electoral commission needs to step up, if it is to be taken seriously as a trusted administrator.
There is no way the forthcoming elections can ever be considered free, fair and credible as long as the majority of voters – as most of those registered reside in rural areas – believe that not only are their choices not secret, but any ‘wrong vote’ can result in dire consequences.
Furthermore, ZEC should bring to book all those fingered in spreading these lies and intimidating the electorate.
There are already videos circulating which capture these disturbing scenes – why has no one been held to account?
Does such glaring indifference not only further entrench the long-held perception that ZEC is simply an extension of the ruling establishment?
And, when the elections are not declared as free, fair and credible by Zimbabweans and the international observers, whose fault should that be?