As political parties’ fall-out with the Zimbabwe electoral commission some of the issues that the parties have been complaining about, and which Zec has done nothing about for years, are manifesting in the Mwenezi East by-election which is being supervised by Zec.
The ZimPF candidate, ZANU PF deserter Kudakwashe Basikiti, has already withdrawn citing issues that have been confirmed by NGOs on the ground in Mwenezi – discriminatory use by Zanu PF of government food aid and farming inputs to buy votes, and intimidation of opposition supporters by ZANU PF official.
The Public Order and Security Act (POSA) which the opposition has been complaining about for decades, is also continuing to be used to limit democratic space and freedom of association by giving the Police too much power to deny, restrict or allow meetings by parties or civic officials.
Community Tolerance Reconciliation and Development (Cotrad) and Zimbabwe Peace Projects (ZPP) – both on the ground monitoring the run-up to the election – have witnessed Village Head Mr Dzingai Maparara of Mwenezi East ward 13 instructing all villagers to assemble at his homestead so that they would go to vote as a group.
He told villagers in his Ward 13 they were expected to vote for the Zanu PF candidate Joosbi Omar and Headman Chirimigwa, Chief Neshuro, Chief Mawarire, Chief Negare and Chief Chitanga were all asking voters to write the serial numbers of their ballots on their palms after voting and to submit them to their Village Heads.
NCA, a party formed by the National Constitutional Assembly chairman, Lovemore Madhuku, and Free Zimbabwe Congress which is also participating in the Mwenezi East by-election have had their requests for public meetings or political rallies delayed or disapproved whilst most of the ZANU-PF meetings were allowed.
Bhasikiti who has withdrawn said what he had seen as a candidate in Mwenezi and the deadlock declared between Zec and Nera, of which his party is a member, meant that he no longer had any business participating in anything managed by the current partisan Zec.
He also said he could not continue legitimising Zec electoral processes when it was clear that they were illegitimate.
Unfolding events in Mwenezi East are all predictable because Zec has done nothing about these issues which have been consistently raised by opposition parties and civil society, in each election, but no one was taking any action to ensure that the electorate exercises its political rights in a conducive environment free of intimidation and other malpractices.
ZPP reported about a Zanu PF rally at Masweswe Secondary School in ward 13 last week where Joosbi Omar distributed rice to everyone who attended the rally, but Village 4 head Mutsikwa later convened a meeting questioning why those who do not support the ruling party had accepted and benefited from Omar’s donations.
He said those who do not have Zanu PF cards would not benefit from the cooking oil donations which were expected on the 25th of March in the community which, like most of Zimbabwe, has been reduced to waiting for donations from the government.
On voter intimidation, ZPP said, those that turned up for the intended ZimPF rally were reportedly followed to their homes by Zanu PF district committee members and ordered to stop supporting opposition political parties.
The crisis created by political parties’ fallout with Zec should not be underestimated, nor should the ZANU PF government’s proclivity to take advantage of it to push elections further away by not resolving the problem.
Political parties’ original position a few years ago, that Zec should be disbanded and reconstituted by strictly following the Constitution, including full consultation with political parties as provided for, can no longer be ignored.
As political parties now seem be be converging on this position are can now only hope that NCP and Free Zimbabwe Congress will also join others in boycotting elections and adding their voice to demanding reforms.
It is definitely no longer business as usual.
Zimbabweans demonstrating at their embassy in the UK joined by Silvanos Mudzvova the Manchester-based performance artist and Derby MDC chairman Danny Kadiki (above) and MDC activists Hellena Gusinyu, Michineripi Rwizi and Mary Ndoro in chains and dressed in solidarity with incarcerated women in Zimbabwe.