Elections in Zimbabwe
The Mugabe regime has been rigging elections for a long time. Until
2000, those of us who participated as voters were aware of the
activity but as it seemed marginal in its impact largely ignored it.
In the February 2000 referendum it was estimated by specialists who
witnessed the process that the vote in favour was rigged by about 15
per cent. In the subsequent parliamentary elections held in June
2000, the same group reported after the election that in its view the
extent of the rigging had been about the same - 15 per cent.
If this is an accurate assessment then Zanu PF lost the referendum
vote by a wide margin - 63 per cent against and 37 per cent for the
Zanu PF constitutional proposals. It also meant that as the combined
opposition won 52 per cent of the June vote in the parliamentary
elections, that Zanu was also seriously defeated in those elections
and only hung onto power by using their traditional methods of vote
manipulation and the 30 seats appointed by the President.
But in the March 2002 Presidential elections Zanu knew that it had to
win - at any cost. They reviewed the results of the voting on
Saturday and in a panic threw caution to the wind and stuffed 800 000
ballots into boxes. Senior Police and Army personnel were drafted in
to carry out this exercise.
At the same time they stopped 400 000 urban voters voting by means of
simple congestion at the polling stations.
In the final result Mugabe got what he wanted and needed - a majority
vote, but the rigging had been so blatant that the majority of
observer missions concluded that the election had not been held under
reasonable conditions and the mantle of democratic legitimacy was
stripped away from his regime.
The only recourse the MDC had to these manipulations of the electoral
process was legal action. We took 37 of the 62 seats won by Zanu in
2000 to the Courts - 12 cases have been heard up to now (in 4 years)
and MDC has won 7 and lost 5. All have been appealed and are lost in
the maze at the
Attorney General's office. Had this trend continued MDC would have
won 22 seats and would have been able to threaten Zanu in Parliament.
The 2002 presidential result was immediately challenged and only the
initial phase has been completed and we are waiting for the Judge to
set down his opinion.
There is little or no chance of either legal action being completed -
even though in constitutional terms they are regarded as "urgent".
Under normal conditions we would go back to the electorate in June
2005 to elect 120 Members of Parliament. Mugabe, under pressure from
the region has brought this date back to March 2005. Looking at the
frantic activity in the Registrar Generals office, I am almost
certain the date will be brought back to October 2004 - 5 months from
Over the past two years Zanu has not been idle - they have been hard
at work refining their elections strategies. They have used these
strategies in several recent bi-elections and in the process have won
the majority. How do they do it? It is perhaps best to look at how
they intend to win the forthcoming election.
In 2002 Zimbabwe conducted a census of its population - as it has
done every 10 years since independence. That exercise suggested that
our population was 11,6 million. Since then we have had at least 600
000 deaths and 700 000 people have left the country for greener
pastures. With births still at about 400 000 per annum and infant
mortality at record levels, our national population is declining at a
rate of 2 to 3 per cent a year. This puts the present population at
about 11.1 million.
With so many adults outside the country it is difficult to estimate
what the adult population inside Zimbabwe is at present. The
traditional measure used is 45 per cent of the total - it certainly
is lower than that today. But using this figure we get an estimate of
total potential voters of just under 5 million. We cannot expect 100
per cent registration so we probably have something of the order of 4
million potential voters.
Our voters roll has 6 million names on it. In addition we understand
they are registering thousands of fictitious people on the roll with
a view to using the roll as the basis of a new delimitation exercise.
From other sources we know there are now over 6,6 million people
living in the cities.
With 120 seats this would normally mean that 72 seats would be urban
and 48 rural. In fact there are already more rural seats than urban
and we understand they intend in the new delimitation exercise to
reduce these still further and to dilute the urban vote by adding
rural districts to traditionally urban seats.
In the rural districts they have a system of closing out the
opposition - no one has any security of tenure, all are subject to
the whim of local Zanu leaders. All traditional leaders are on the
payroll and they have never had it so good. They are required to
support the government and the ruling party or face removal from
positions of authority and with it the loss of all benefits.
Government has produced a false estimate of the grain crop as a
pretext for excluding the aid agencies that have been feeding up to
70 per cent of the population for the past two years. In fact the
grain crop will be worse than last year and the State is right now
importing maize to partly cover the shortfall. So we can expect food
to be used as an electoral weapon in all food deficit areas. As
alternative foods are expensive this will be an effective instrument
in all rural districts and most of the urban high-density areas.
The State now controls all the media - even the remaining two
independent weeklies are cowed to some extent. They control all
political activity through POSA. They are seeking regulations that
make it illegal to even put posters up in public places and are
denying the MDC access - any access to the voters roll - for obvious
reasons. Painting graffiti on a wall is now a serious offence.
Our armed forces - nearly 120 000 men and women, are fully engaged
and are being used on every possible occasion. Rent a mob has nothing
on this situation - a ready pool of thugs exists in all areas of the
Arbitrary arrests and detention - on the most spurious grounds are
common. Criminal assaults go unpunished with the victims being
incarcerated without appeal. Activists are targeted across the board.
The elections will be held over two days and every effort will be
made to ensure that the poll simply cannot be adequately supervised.
NGO's are not allowed to conduct election education and poll
observers will be strictly controlled. The actual poll will be
managed from start to finish by Zanu PF and security officers. This
will permit double voting, ballot stuffing and other forms of vote
MDC is saying that it will participate in these elections only if
these gross abuses of the system are corrected. We are demanding that
the norms, which apply to elections in the SADC, be fully implemented
in Zimbabwe. If they are not, then we will boycott the elections and
expect foreign governments to say that they will not recognize the
outcome and to say so now - so that regional governments can absorb
the full implications.
Bulawayo, 27th May 2004