Since the day the Zimbabweans marched into the city center in November last year, Zimbabwe has experienced the calmness, hope, and peace it had not experienced in a long time. President Mnangagwa has been practicing politics of peace and love. ZANU PF did their primary elections without a major incidence. On the other hand, the MDC-T has seen so much turmoil. Since the death of their leader Morgan Tsvangirai, the party has experienced violence and leadership fights. Just yesterday there was an incident at the MDC-T HQ. The fights have taken the MDC-T to the Supreme Court of Zimbabwe. It is feared that unleashing the MDC youths into the city may lead to violence. It appears we are revisiting the Morgan Tsvangirai demonstration days.
Everyone was hoping that we could get to elections without an incidence. On Sunday Biti told the country that the MDC Alliance was going to have a “Peace Demonstration” to demand reforms. I had no idea what this was for until I listened to Zimbabweans debating the legality of the planned demonstration. I then knew that the ghost of Tsvangirai was back in town.
I listened intently to Biti on Sunday so that I could understand the grievances. I rue the days of true journalism with the likes of Geoffrey Nyarota during the old Dailynews era. He was fearless and carried out investigative journalism. Unfortunately, there is no press in Zimbabwe today giving the readers valuable information to make informed decisions. Most of the people are therefore following anti-establishment movements. From my simple understanding, here are some of the reforms the Alliance is demonstrating for:
- The MDC Alliance is demanding unbiased coverage of political parties from the state media. This should be common sense. The media just need to do that if they are not doing that now. In a country with over 100 political parties, they need to come up with a way to cover everyone. That will be difficult. The law says all parties must be covered fairly so there is nothing legal to change. It
may help to have an independent media coverage. monitoring body of some sort
- The MDC Alliance demands to be part of the Voter’s roll procurement process. Well, from my understanding Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) is a legally independent body that operates without interference from the government. They have a budget of their own. Legally the government is not allowed to interfere with ZEC’s processes. ZEC has said no to that. In my opinion that is precisely what they must do. It would be very bad for political parties to run ZEC or interfere with its operations. However, ZEC invited interested parties to come and observe while the voter’s roll is printed. For me, I don’t think that is necessary unless someone has no work to do. The question is why does the MDC Alliance want to be part of the voters’ roll procurement team? They suspect ZEC might buy a paper that can make the government rig the elections. How can they rig through a ballot paper? The Chamisa said at a rally some time that the paper can be a special paper that if a voter places an X to choose their candidate, the X can disappear and then a pre-voted X appears on another candidate. What? Let’s look at that again. A voter uses ink or pencil to place an X on their candidate. That X disappears, and a pre-voted X appears on a different candidate? I may not be very good at technology, but I have never heard of a paper like that anywhere. Where is that technology? Rigging in Russia was done by polling agents. Zimbabwe certainly does not have that technology. The rigging in Russia recently was done manually. They staffed ballot boxes with ballot paper. Where on earth is that technology that MDC is afraid of? If there is, it uses a special paper. It is not ordinary. The special paper remains after voting. It remains special. If one gets hold of ballot paper like that, one can take it anywhere and carry forensic tests. How then ZANU PF expose themselves that way? Why don’t Biti and company take a sample and test it? This is a movie style rigging system. If ZEC was to give the MDC a sample of the ballot paper now, what will they do with it? Which laboratory will they take it for tests? They can take the paper even during the election, vote on it, put it in a pocket and observe if the results will change! This is ridiculous.
- Included in the Biti demands is another inspection by the electorate. I don’t think it’s necessary because voter’s inspection closed last week with the registration exercise. Calling for another one is just silly. Here is what the government did to avoid previous election challenges. The government created a new voters’ roll for this election. This is used with the new Biometric Voter Registration (BVR) system. This system is used to capture unique features of a person. It helps to eliminate forgery. Data captured during registrational included full names, national identity numbers, telephones, voting center, date of birth and the voter’s photo was also taken. This makes it extremely difficult to cheat the system. There cannot be two persons biometrically identical. There cannot be ghost voters on the voters roll with this system. Every month the Birth and Death registration team updates ZEC with names of people who died during the month. They use this data to update the system to make sure it is up to date. ZEC at the request of parties extended voter registration until last week. During that period, they also invited voters to inspect their registered details. Those who registered their mobile phones received SMS links to their details on the ZEC servers. Copies of the voter’s rolls were given to stakeholders. Now that ZEC closed the registration, they are now updating the register to produce the final copy which must be out in less than two weeks. Stakeholders will be given electronic versions of the voters roll for free. Any other person can have a physical copy for a fee. I am afraid that our sensitive data will be given out to the public. I think something must be done to make sure only a limited information is in the public domain.
- Biti also said they want ZEC employees to be civilians. In other words, ZEC must fire all employees who have a connection with the police, the army or any other government departments. That sounds good but ZEC’s work is seasonal. It comes once every 5 years. Instead of employing new employees, government employees are seconded to work with ZEC during the election season. Their job is mainly administrative. I am not sure why the MDC wants the government to employ for that short season considering these employees don’t count votes. They are not involved in the actual voting process. Counting and tallying is normally done by teachers and other departments on a part-time basis. It is only the final figure that is given to political parties and ZEC employees. What is given to ZEC is what the political parties have anyway? The fear of ZEC office workers is therefore unfounded. Polling agents from different parties guard the ballot boxes and observe the counting. It is difficult to cheat.
The big question is why demonstrations now? Last elections were in 2013. If the MDC saw it necessary, why didn’t they pass a motion in parliament to make the changes they wanted then? Why did they wait until the proclamation of the election day? The MDC Alliance is made up of constitutional lawyers. They were responsible for drafting the new constitution. They know well that Section 157:5 of the constitution says, “After an election has been called, no change to the electoral law or to any other law relating to elections has effect for the purpose of that election” They know well that government has no power to change the electoral law. That is done through parliament. They also know that their demands to ZEC are not constitutional. They know that any legal changes to the law will make the election null and void. Why then are demonstrating knowing that legally nothing will change?
In Wedza Nelson Chamisa made a statement that was countered by George Charamba in the Chronicle. Chamisa said he wrote a letter to the President “advising” him to work together with the opposition for stability and prosperity. Charamba confirmed that when he said Chamisa requested the president to enter a government of national unity (GNU) like the one in Kenya. Charamba said the President did not see the basis for that because there is no criterion for choosing office bearers from 100 political parties. The President said that is possible only after elections. One person yesterday likened this demonstration to prescribing mediation to a dead child. Chamisa knows that he may not win the elections. If he loses then there is no work for the next 5 years. He gave up his Kuwadzana seat for the lucrative post. The only way to be at the helm of government is forcing the government to form a GNU. If the opposition can find a way to refuse to participate in the elections, the government can not go it alone. The world will cry foul. No one is looking at the constitutionality of their arguments. If the demonstration turns ugly, the obvious excuse is there. Even when the Vanguard wanted to burn a hut where Khupe was hiding, Chamisa said to SABC it was ZANU PF youths. There is a danger that when the youths turn this into a violent demonstration, destroying property, the police and the army may come in. These demonstrations may start peaceful. The government will do nothing if they are peaceful. Eventually they may turn nasty to provoke the government into action. If that happens the police will be unleashed. Pictures will be everywhere of the police against people. That will be bad for the country. Chamisa knows getting the government to that position will force a GNU. Let’s wait and see!