‘Forget political reforms before 2018’

Source: ‘Forget political reforms before 2018’ – DailyNews Live January 14, 2017

Maxwell Sibanda

HARARE – With only a year and few months left before the 2018 elections,
political and social analysts contend that the governing Zanu PF
government will not entertain any electoral reforms as this will be
tantamount to surrendering power.

Election Resource Centre (ERC) director Tawanda Chimhinhi said chances for
real and consequential reforms are fast disappearing as we get closer to

“There is a real danger that those opposed to reforms will consider
inconsequential reforms so that a narrative of actually doing something to
reform is substantiated.

“Reforms, particularly those relating to electoral processes are
essentially time bound if they are to be effective,” said Chimhinhi.

The ERC director said chances of getting a clean voters’ roll still remain
but again time is fast running out.  “A clean voters’ roll is beyond just
compiling a list of voters. It is about coming up with the rules for
registration having fully consulted, developing and publicly sharing clear
time lines for the registration processes, addressing the vulnerabilities
of the registration process to remove possible systemic manipulation,
deliberate malpractice and possible fraud, opening up the process to
exhaustive scrutiny by all stakeholders and ensuring that the environment
in which voter registration happens is free and fair to guarantee a
credible process,” said Chimhinhi.

MISA-Zimbabwe national director Nhlanhla Ngwenya said the challenge is
that there is massive stalling of progress with regards legislative and
democratic reforms.

“What we will definitely get is tokenism meant to hoodwink the local and
international community into believing that we are headed in the right
direction. This will essentially be about getting the much needed foreign

“But beneath the surface, I believe nothing substantive will take place
with regards ensuring constitutionalism. We are already witnessing
evidence of intentions to the shred the supreme law and this casts doubts
on attainment on the bare minimum conditions that will engender
democracy,” said Ngwenya.

Human rights lawyer Dewa Mavhinga said: “Chances of electoral reforms
before 2018 elections depends on how much pressure is brought to bear on
the governing Zanu PF government from opposition parties, civil society,
and ordinary citizens.

“If the opposition lacks spine and commitment to wholeheartedly push for
reforms then do not expect Zanu PF to introduce any electoral reforms on
its own volition because the current uneven electoral field favours them.”

ZimRights director Okay Machisa said: “Electoral reforms means reforming
the ruling party which is very unlikely. Zimbabweans should know that and
once they have known that they should fight strongly to earn their
democracy – of course fighting using legal means.”

Political analyst Maxwell Saungweme said: “Electoral reforms under a Zanu
PF government won’t come. Reforms are tantamount to Zanu PF subjugating or
surrendering power. That will not happen. There are no political
incentives to Zanu PF for electoral reforms.”

ZESN director Rindai Vava said: “Failure to meet the demands and calls for
electoral reforms of the broader civic society as spelt out in our 10
point plan is likely to result in another contested electoral process in

“There is also need for guarantees of a conducive environment for all
political contestants where they can freely campaign and have equitable
access to the media. We have previously called for the creation of a
conducive political environment devoid of violence and intimidation and
that is a prerequisite to any democratic process in Zimbabwe.”

Social analyst Lenox Mhlanga said: “The appetite by the current government
to institute reforms is not there. They will not embark on an exercise
that will evidently reduce their chances at the polls.

“The ZEC has cited budgetary issues as an excuse for delays in voter
registration and education. The cash strapped government is unlikely to
prioritise funding these crucial electoral processes.”

Political activist Tabani Moyo said political processes by their nature
are highly contested terrains which require thought stamina and agility to
outwit opponents.

“Change in this regard is a function of competent opposition and civics
through rolling out strategic interventions and political campaigns that
forces officialdom to the table.

“As is, the opposition is struggling to heighten the stocks on the need
for reforms. In essence the opposition seems to be disillusioned in
peripheral power struggles while the centre has free reign to define the
electoral atmosphere.

“So it depends on the behavior of the opposition and its ability to
galvanize the entire spectrum of stakeholders on the need for reforms,”
said Moyo.

He added that this equally depends on how the opposition will nourish
itself on organizing, priority setting, craft competence and behaving like
government in waiting.

Legislator Jessie Majome said she does not have the gift of looking into
the seeds of time to see which grain will grow and which will not.

“My portfolio committee reports that I presented time and time again to
Parliament report Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC)’s own words that
they will not be ready for the 2018 polls given their level of non-funding
in successive national budgets.

“Anything though is possible with political will of those in power – that
will, will be sufficient to muster the phenomenal resources needed to
prepare conditions for a free and fair election.

“If the political will is not inherent in the powers that be – the Zanu PF
government, it can theoretically grow or be induced, and that’s what I
don’t have the gift of prophecy to see,” said Majome.

Social analysts Rashweat Mukundu said: “Electoral reforms especially voter
registration is certainly behind time. There is no concerted effort by
ZEC, government and opposition on clarifying time tables on key processes
such as voter registration and setting up the biometric voting system.

“So 2018 will likely be another disputed election outcome.”

Mining executive Farai Maguwu said: “Certainly we are behind time if these
reforms are to take effect in 2018. It appears opposition parties are
preoccupied with coalition talks at the expense of electoral reforms,
which are more important.

“The reforms must have started much earlier so that the on-going
by-elections would be used to test the new electoral system.”

Maguwu said Zimbabweans are now highly migratory owing to a failed
economy, “hence majority might not find time to participate in the
registration and voter education process as they strive to meet their

“There is need for a lengthy period to allow for voter registration and
voter education so that as many citizens as possible are reached.”

Communication and leadership specialist Maggie Mzumara believes we are
running behind time.

“Elections are a year and some months away and proposed reforms and the
whole election preparation exercise needs much more time than we have left
if they are to be undertaken diligently and adequately.

“But what is more deficient here than anything else is political will. And
this is a `tragedy’ for all pro-reformers and indeed for all of us
citizens hoping for a free and fair elections on a level playing field.
The governing Zanu PF is unwilling to reform.”

Mzumura said if the political will was there, and sufficiently there, in
the little time available, reforms and necessary preparations could well
be undertaken.

Social commentator Edinah Masanga said: “Transparent electoral reforms are
probably a pipe dream. I think that in any dictatorship electoral theft is
what dictators thrive on so we are not likely to see objective and
transparent electoral reforms especially if they have to be implemented by
the current government.

“If ever there is any talk of electoral reform it will only be for show.
What we need is some kind of permissible intervention from the AU or other
international bodies to help with electoral transparency.”

MDC spokesperson Obert Gutu said: “The MDC together with 13 or more other
opposition political parties under the NERA trajectory continues to
vigorously push for the adoption of electoral reforms. Whether the
beleaguered and faction-ridden Zanu PF regime wants it or not we are going
to have these electoral reforms.”

Media practitioner Nigel Nyamutumbu said ZEC has to urgently deal with all
administrative matters pertaining to the elections, especially voter
registration and ensuring the country has a clean voters roll.

“Moreover, other critical reforms within other key sectors such as the
media have to begin in earnest such that citizens enjoy their rights to
access information and to free expression. Having a free media and open
society will not only promote transparency and accountability but also
ensures that citizens make informed decisions.

“Evidently, the several by-elections, including the forthcoming plebiscite
in Bikita have more or less been held under the same conditions as the
2013 contested elections.”

Social commentator rejoice Ngwenya said: “The possibilities for ‘cosmetic’
reforms, substantial no, because I don’t see opposition with enough
critical mass to force Zanu PF. “However, if civil society is willing to
drive a mass uprising agenda for reform that might be possible.

“If there is a coalition of opposition parties, they may be able to
threaten however by its very fragmented in nature – opposition will still
be split along ‘factional lines’ on participation. As for Voters Roll, the
registration process and education, it is still possible to start April
and still beat the deadline.”