The cynical phrase “Vote early …. and vote often!” is often attributed to Al Capone a USA, Chicago Mafia gangster notorious being corrupt and unashamed vote rigging schemes to manipulate the democratic process.
Zimbabweans know all about rigged elections, you would think, after all 36 year after independence the nation is yet to hold free, fair and credible elections. There is one critical difference between vote rigging by Al Capone Mafia on the one hand and by President Mugabe’s regime on the other; the former is organized criminals against State machinery whereas the latter is State Institutionalized vote rigging against the individual.
Al Capone’s vote rigging schemes could add 5% maximum 10% of the votes and in a tight race that could make all the difference between losing and winning. In Mugabe’s Zimbabwe it is impossible to win because he controls every aspect of the voting process each with a potential to produce a 50% to 95% swing vote in his favour!
In 2008 Mugabe demonstrate that notion that it does not matter how the voting goes on the day it is controlling those doing the counting that matters. In the March 2008 vote count done at each polling station Tsvangirai had 67% to 73% lead to President Mugabe’s less than 30%. It was agreed that the final vote count was to be done in Harare. When the official count was finally concluded however, after five weeks, Tsvangirai’s vote had dropped to 46% hence the need for a run-off.
In the 2013 election Zanu PF demonstrated there was another tool in the regime’s vote rigging kit. Just two days before the elections the regime announced the number of Polling Stations had been increased from 2 000 to 9 000, a four and half fold increase in the number of Polling Stations. On polling day election observers came across Polling Station manned by Zanu PF officials only with no ZEC or opposition officials.
During the 2008 presidential run-off elections Zanu PF demonstrated a more sinister and lethal vote rigging tactic; wanton violence which included harassment, beatings, rape and even murder. The country had always had problems of politically motivated violence with those in authority like the Police turning a blind eye to it if the violence was by the ruling party operatives. The opposition supporters accused of causing any disturbance were always made to feel the full force of the law. Indeed sometimes the opposition supporters were arrested even though they were the victims.
In 2008 there was a truly more sinister and barbaric dimension in that State Security operative like the Police, CIO and Soldiers were actively involved in the planning and execution of the wanton violence against the opposition and the public at large. For the next four months the State “declared war” on the people as opposition candidate Morgan Tsvangirai described it when he announced his forced withdrawal from the race.
What 2008 demonstrated beyond all doubt is that an election pitting a State sponsored vote rigging machinery is simply unbeatable.
SADC refused to recognized President Mugabe’s presidential election run-off victory and forced him to sign the 2008 GPA agreeing to the implementation of a number democratic reforms designed to restore State Institutions’ independence and impartiality in ensuring elections are free, fair and credible.
Sadly the opposition MDC led by Morgan Tsvangirai, tasked to implement the reforms, failed to get even one reform implement at the end of the five years of the GNU. SADC’s advice to MDC was not to take part in the elections until all the reforms were implemented but MDC paid no heed.
Mugabe went on to rig the July 2013 elections running an elaborate vote rigging scheme involving paying an Israeli company NIKUV to corrupt the voters roll, bribing officials, bussing a few supporters to rallies and then later to one Polling Station after another casting multiple votes at each, etc. President Mugabe did not use violence still the scheme costed billions of dollars and bankrupted the nation in the process.
Many people are arguing that Zanu PF should be pressure to accept the implementation of the GPA reforms to ensure the next elections, due in July 2018, are free, fair and credible.
Few people would dispute that free, fair and credible elections are a basic human right and not a privilege to be given to some or denied to others at the whim of whomever. The government of the day has a statutory duty to the people to ensure the people enjoy this very important and crucial right.
The right to free, fair and credible election is the key requirement in whether the nation has a good and competent government or a corrupt and oppressive one. It all hinges on the regime being accountable to the people or not and the ability of the people to change the regime in a free and democratic vote is the ultimate expression of people’s power over those in power.
“What if there are no reforms by 2018?” asked Vince Musewe in his recent article. It is a legitimate question and it deserves a serious answer.
If that was to happen then the opposition must not take part in an electoral process everyone knows they will never win. SADC’s advice to the opposition before the July 2013 elections was not to take part; it was sound advice then and it is sound advice now. This advice becomes even more ominous when the possibility of Zanu PF resorting to wanton violence cannot be discounted.
The attitude of some opposition politicians of considering the acts of violence including murder of the innocent as “patriot blood watering the tree of liberty” is totally irresponsible and unacceptable.
Even if the regime resist all peaceful efforts to force it to accept democratic reforms it should be noted that the country’s economic chaos will not go away since the nation will still have the same corrupt and incompetent system of government. In other words the nation will still have to deal with this issue of ending the present corrupt and oppressive system of government.
Vince Musewe is therefore asking the wrong and misleading question. The right question should be “After 36 years of denying people their right to a free vote, a pre-requisite for good governance; how much suffering does are we to endure before every Zimbabwean is granted this right and the nation has good governance?”