Political overslaugh and skewed electoral processes

I had been sent on an errand. It wasn’t unusual for me to be sent on such errands. I was the only child in the house, at least the kind of child energetic enough to quickly rush to the shops and get whatever was needed.

Source: Political overslaugh and skewed electoral processes – NewsDay Zimbabwe June 15, 2016

And so, the day started like all other days before it. There arose a need to get a particular supply for the household. Although I can’t quite recollect what that was, I remember though my experience at home when I eventually returned. I found assembled, on the portico, a group of young Zanu PF legionnaires. I looked at my sister-in-law (who in essence was like a mother to me following my orphanhood at age 6) and saw her holding a Zanu PF membership card, a tool forced on her to ensure her protection against a ferocious beast, indeed a predatory political party, Zanu PF.

Mutsa Murenje

That was towards the 2002 presidential election. We had witnessed the violence of the previous two years. The violent land reform had started in February 2000 when I was 16, following the successful “Vote No” campaign. The June 2000 parliamentary elections were bloody and violent. Classes in schools were disrupted by rowdy youths and so-called war veterans. Our own headmaster was suspended on spurious charges that he was a member of the opposition and the most serious allegation was that he had become a political instructor of some sort, that we were recipients of his political education, an accusation that I found outrageous. Of course, that wasn’t true. But in such an environment, one suffered silently. It was difficult to trust anybody. You couldn’t tell who really was your enemy and thus had to be careful. It was this environment in which I grew up. Instead of speaking out, I had to suffer silently, expurgating my own voice in the process, a voice that would refuse to be silent once I realised it could be an effective tool against tyranny.

I heard an audible whisper to the effect that there was another person in the house, me! Unlike my sister-in-law, I was a student on holiday, having taken a break from my Advanced Level studies at a boarding school. It was a requirement that residents of this area be holders of Zanu PF membership cards. Since I wasn’t often at home, I wasn’t aware of this new development. I didn’t have their party card and my excuse was I was a student and had no knowledge of their requirement. My sister-in-law felt I had been a little arrogant, she feared for me because she knew who they were and what they were capable of doing. My brother later organised a card for me when he heard of this experience. I should be honest with you dear readers. I felt great grief and consternation on that day. I grieved for my country, I grieved for my people and I have grieved each time that I came across a barricade on the road or I read and heard of political violence. I grieve till now because I know our circumstances haven’t changed at all. If anything, we are far worse than we might have been 16 or 14 years ago.

I find it vexatious that I can’t express myself freely in my own country. I find it outrageous that the government has no money to repair our damaged roads but can still get money to appease war veterans. It is an insult that President Robert Mugabe and his ministers never go hungry when 5 million Zimbabweans are facing starvation. When we are forced to seek treatment from our ill-equipped clinics and hospitals, they fly to the Far East and other countries to seek medical attention. They lack faith in our educational institutions so they send their own children to universities outside the country. If it is hard to have faith in our institutions how come we have faith in the judiciary and the electoral body that has handled controversial elections in our country? We seem not to learn anything though. Inasmuch as leaders must be elected, we also must ensure that the election itself is without controversy. It mayn’t be a perfect electoral contest, but we can at least minimise those aspects that make our elections neither free nor fair.

I am a proud graduate of Zimsec exams. If Zimsec can have a product like me and others who have distinguished themselves nationally, regionally and internationally, then I have no doubt that we can make this country work for all of us. It worries me though that our electoral body presides over rotten elections. Morgan Tsvangirai has been overslaughed a number of times because we have a partisan electoral authority that takes direct orders from the powers that be. I have noticed considerable interest in the upcoming 2018 elections. Some have already concluded that they will be in power when they are eventually held and done with. Don’t get me wrong. I am, like Martin Luther King, Jr and Nelson Mandela before me, fundamentally an optimist. But I am also realistic. It is possible that elections can be won, but there are certain conditions that must be met before we can start celebrating our victory over tyranny.

We are all yearning for change. But I doubt elections in Zimbabwe will bring us any change. The truth is that the Mugabe regime unfailingly holds elections in search of popular legitimacy but manipulates them for its own ends. We are no longer having genuine elections, if ever we had, in Zimbabwe. The MDC has raised concerns over the manner in which Saviour Kasukuwere and Jonathan Moyo are handling the Ben Manyenyeni matter in Harare. There are accusations that this could be a calculated ploy by Zanu PF to distribute land to its supporters so as to alter the demographics in its favour ahead of the 2018 elections. I did a bit of research and I am convinced that such accusations by the MDC must be taken seriously. Every patriotic Zimbabwean must be seen to be acting in the best interests of this great country of ours.

Political parties in favour of taking part in the upcoming elections should be aware that show elections are an act of electoral fraud and we don’t need these. Although we are eager to vote, there are some of us who will be away when they are held and we strongly feel it’s time those in the diaspora were allowed to vote. Our failure to take part means that we will have a reduced confidence in democracy. There are also those at home who increasingly feel that elections are not solving their problems. We need to handle these with care. Zimbabweans have become increasingly less inclined to accept election results because we know previous elections have been used to break down our democracy and ratify dictatorship. Measures must, therefore, be put in place to obviate illegal interference with the electoral process because failure to do so will bolster political overslaugh as we have witnessed in the recent past. May God help Zimbabwe! The struggle continues unabated!

l Mutsa Murenje is a social and political writer based in South Africa