Sharon Hofisi Legal Letters
Today though, we know about 60 percent of those who registered to vote in this year’s election largely fall under the youth category — never mind the constitutional definition of the term, ‘youth’ ends at 35 years. The sheer effort of getting the youth vote invites the competing candidates to defeat Hercules.
Efforts at wooing the youth vote dramatically fulfil the entrenchment of the opportunities targeting youths. Our Constitution brings into sharp focus the youths as people between the ages of 15 and 35 years.
The national objectives in Chapter 2 of the Constitution envisage a situation where the State and all institutions and agencies of Government must ensure that the youths have opportunities to associate and to be represented and participate in political, social, economic and other spheres of life.
Voting is part of political opportunities, which enable youths to assert their political rights. The youths fit into the category of “every Zimbabwean citizen”, who can assert his or her political rights enshrined in section 67 of the Constitution.
If 60 percent of the 5,3 million+, who registered to vote have decided to add their voice in ensuring that the coming election is free; fair and regular, then we will be happy to discover how they will make their political choices, freely, as contemplated by the Constitution.
You see, my concern is that, while the youth vote appears to be high and encouraging, it is too early to decide on who will get this vote. Several issues determine how this vote will be significant. What do we mean by registered youths? Do we mean they are from urban or rural areas? Which political party encouraged its youths to register to vote? Which party has youths who are committed to casting their votes on the day of election? What was the motive behind an increase in the youths vote?
Yes, it’s not the registered voter who’s significant if he doesn’t cast the vote. It’s not the age group which matters if we don’t know the motive behind its need to vote. It’s that man who is prepared to say, “What weather, queue, challenge and so forth can prevent me from casting my vote?”
As a result, the stage for the election reads like a soap opera. We see that a strong opposition has been in Zimbabwe for the past 18 years. Good enough for democracy. Even the efforts at uniting the opposition under a single political banner are under the direct control of a political leader who is perceived to be youthful — Nelson Chamisa.
His sole job is to court the youth and elderly vote. We must not forget that President Mnangagwa has even welcomed young Chamisa to the electoral race. Elsewhere former envoys have encouraged governments to welcome whoever wins the 2018 elections. What this means is that Mnangagwa has an approval rating just like Chamisa and others. ED has placed it on record that he is going to meet Chamisa and other candidates to preach peace, love, unity and forgiveness.
This is important if we are to have free elections. Observers from the European Union, and other regions have also been given the green light to come and observe if they decide to do so.
But in this wake, we hear through monitoring media reports that Chamisa has threatened to boycott the coming election. That would be sad for multi-party democracy because we would love to gauge it in many ways, Chamisa included. Most importantly, we want to gauge the significance of the youth vote, now and in the years to come.
People ask whether Zimbabwe is prepared for Chamisa or ED. It’s on record. Names such as Strive Masiyiwa are also doing their rounds. Predictably, the sole job of the candidates is to make sure that they don’t fall over, slip away or say anything, which might scare away the youth vote. So we hear President Mnangagwa has been consistent in discouraging hate speech. He has remained like the former Vice President, who remained resolute in the time of political adversity.
Chamisa must not forget that he is competing with a President, who doesn’t hit back in words when despised. He has accepted that the people’s voice, youths included, is the voice of God. He has ratified the campaigning initiatives by the youth in his ZANU-PF party such as #EDhasmyvote. He has allowed the youths to celebrate the legacy of former president, Cde Robert Mugabe on 21 February 2018. He has been conversing with them on social media. The youths in his political party have been on the forefront in condemning the violence involving the police and citizens in Harare.
Although Cde Mugabe is said to be mooting a political comeback, President Mnangagwa’s Government seems to be continuing with preparations beyond the election, including vision 2030; and significantly, contributing to the operationalisation of the National Peace and Reconciliation Commission and other commissions such as the Land Commission. This is good for transitional justice in Zimbabwe.
Why? Well, we’ve known for some time that the culture of violence in Zimbabwe demanded that political tolerance and consistence be the two most important words in the political language and, of course, emphasising their importance be seen as good as winning the hearts of the electorate.
We don’t forget the late Morgan Tsvangirai in this political matrix. He was a symbol of consistence in democracy and political tolerance. We still remember the 2008 electoral bloodbath and impasse and how he committed to the Government of National Unity and its gains. Zimbabwe gallantly celebrated his passing on.
The 2018 candidates cannot ignore these words. In fact, political facts are always stubborn. They will anger any candidate who ignores the need to be consistent and tolerant. Even in common parlance we know that facts are stubborn for they anger giants. Those who ignore political facts must read Machiavelli’s Prince of 1513 on the art of government.
Political scientists are perhaps aware of Jean Bodin’s Republic, published in 1576. Bodin wrote his work when France was under factionalism. There was need to end feudal rivalries and religious intolerance through strengthening the French monarchy. MDC-T and ZANU-PF are no strangers to factionalism.
They must convince us that they are taking us to a State or political polity, which should have a summa potestas otherwise it would be like a ship without a keel. Bodin showed us that this State we want is a multitude of families and the possessions that they have in common ruled by a supra-legal power and by reason. We still remember how he captured this under the “respublica est familiarum rerunique inter ipsas communion summa potestate ac rationae moderata multitude”.
But don’t we have a problem with political parties and their leaders at the moment. They are sometimes not bothered about consistence and tolerance, yet we feel and demand that they commit to peace now so that there would be peace when they are elected into office.
MDC-T should commit to ending violence. The violence at Tsvangirai’s funeral and the recent violence in Bulawayo continue to produce sad days for multi-party democracy. Can you see a problem with violence? We are going to vote very soon.
We don’t want violence during and after elections. Whoever gets the 50 percent plus one must tell his party that this is the same with 51 percent. It’s not as if we are meddling in party politics and affairs. But we must be concerned with party integrity if we are to go into discussions on genuine, free, fair and credible elections.
Chamisa has given us thirty-five promises. Banning of bond notes within 90 days (noble because they have outlived their lifespan), reduced Cabinet (already done by President Mnangagwa), infrastructure development and beneficiation (ZIM-ASSET idea), transparent land audit (The President has already signed the Land Commission Act, which would independently look into this issue), election forms (noble), and so forth.
We would have been highly encouraged if he had also emphasised on the need to end violence before, during and after elections. This is important because there have been pockets of violence in his party and all aspiring leaders must be seen to have eyes of the events of their time, especially those that bear on good governance.
Chamisa’s rival, ED, has during the course of duty been seen as someone who is consistently preaching love, unity, peace, and forgiveness. He even engages churches and ministries, which are largely seen as havens of good news message. We cannot ignore the Mutendi, Makandiwa and Magaya factors in this vote if their engagement with ED or his government are anything to go by. These church leaders have congregations that believe in prophets or prophetic figures. Imagine where the vote may go if the registered youths are from such churches?
Even if we say close to a million people attended Tsvangirai’s death, we must also ask, “whose people; were they, Chamisa’s or Chamisa and President Mnangagwa’s?” These are practical and political considerations, which answer all political questions we may ask. We must not forget that ED’s Government had assisted the late Tsvangirai, and ZANU-PF’s supporters could have been part of the funeral attendees.
Further, although Chamisa is a pastor and President Mnangagwa is not, we mustn’t forget that religion is simply a cement of society. The President has been engaging churches that have huge numbers. Don’t forget that he also engaged Mudzidzi Wimbo in the not so distant past. While so much attention is being driven to ED and Chamisa’s merits or demerits, a growing number of the voters and non-voters are also turning to the need for peace, tolerance and economic stability, especially access to their income.
What will happen in 2018? How? Who will it happen to? We read the 35 promises as Chamisa’s vision and President Mnangagwa’s peace calls as his vision — and decide what is best for Zimbabwe’s democracy. Every day, newspaper headlines remind us that Chamisa and ED are doing something about the elections: dilemma on primary elections; bullet trains, smart or Command Agriculture and so forth.
For President Mnangagwa, after what seemed like a divided house or some burning city, his ZANU-PF party seems to have managed to deal with its fissures. He was scolded during the days of political abyss. He is posting on social media and is showing us some groundbreaking ceremonies on National Railways of Zimbabwe, infrastructural development, economic policies that make Zimbabwe open for business. He is emphasising that Zimbabwe will hold free and fair elections. What will Chamisa’s boycott produce?
He gave chiefs cars and his likely competitor, Chamisa confirmed the same position during Tsvangirai’s burial, never mind how he will carry on with the ED or former president Mugabe’s idea. We do not have the benefit of the Afrobarometer or its partner, Mass Public Opinion Institute (MPOI), on approval ratings of candidates, but we have the print media, which has been doing a good job of balanced reporting of late.
Sharon Hofisi is a lecturer in Administrative Law. Feedback: [email protected]
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