Democracy Watch - 2
Administering a democratic system is a huge task if it is to be done
properly. In the first place the voters must be adequately informed of
options, they must then be allowed to vote freely and without
or intimidation and then the vote must be counted and reported
Three simple tests of a democratic system. How does Zimbabwe measure up
weeks before the next scheduled elections for Parliament?
1.. Information. We have 15 newspapers, 4 radio stations and one
television channel broadcasting in Zimbabwe. Of these 7 newspapers and
electronic media are owned by the State, 6 of the other newspapers are
by Zanu PF in various forms and only two weeklies are really
The State/Zanu PF controlled media is tightly controlled and may only
news and information that is approved by the officials that are
for media coverage. The opposition may not even advertise in the Zanu
controlled media. The news and other coverage are totally hostile to
and its civic allies and are used simply to promote the position of
every issue. Speaking to the average citizen who is not politically
and who have no alternative sources of information it is astonishing
effective this propaganda machine has become.
Particularly damaging has been the loss of the Daily News and the total
control of the electronic media. I estimate - based on distribution
and hours of broadcasting every day that less than 5 per cent of media
exposure is committed to telling the truth and that includes three
radio stations broadcasting into Zimbabwe on shortwave. This control
media is reinforced by total control over all forms of public meetings
controls which do not apply to Zanu PF.
2.. The Right to Vote. We have at most 3 million people in the
are eligible to vote and might register and then physically turn out.
rest are outside the country (3,5 million adults) or are too young, or
ruled as being ineligible for one reason or another. The voters roll
million names on it - 2,6 million "ghost voters". Some are dead; some
duplicates others are now outside the country.
All those who have left the country are to be denied the vote - they
group that is now potentially larger than the voters who remain in the
country. We are the only country in the region that denies their
who are living abroad the right to vote. In fact when you work out who
vote and will be allowed to vote, it represents only about 42 per cent
potential voters who are alive!
On top of this astonishing fact, the whole process of voter
maintaining the voters role is partisan and controlled by officials -
by the State -but loyal to Zanu PF. The systematic exclusion of voters
might be sympathetic to the MDC is carried out on a regular basis.
registration is intensive in areas controlled by Zanu PF and where they
believe they can control the vote in an election.
3.. The Vote Itself. In the two previous elections where Zanu faced
serious opposition, they used the mobile stations to rig the election
stuff ballots. They also used the two days over which the election was
to decide what was needed to win and then to carry out the required
activity. In those elections we had about 4500 fixed stations and 1100
mobile stations - each mobile using 4 separate locations to record
2002 the number of polling stations in MDC strongholds were reduced and
rate at which votes were recorded held down so that up to 400 000
voters were eventually turned away.
This time the vote will be on one day and there will be no mobiles. To
capture 3 million votes at the rate of 2 minutes per person would
000 poling stations. In fact, given the inefficiencies of the system I
estimate we will require 12 000 polling stations to record the vote in
In 2002 we counted the vote at 120 counting centers. This time we will
at all 12 000 polling stations. The logistics of this situation are
mind-boggling. It is one thing for a government to deploy staff and
officials to 12 000 polling stations, it is quite another to supervise
goes on at each polling station - especially in the more remote rural
where Zanu thinks they can control the vote. The potential for vote
and ballot stuffing is enormous. If MDC cannot cover every polling
with trained and committed personnel from the opposition we are likely
see a repeat of the 2002 elections and end up with a government that is
recognized as being legitimate.
In the Ukraine election just re-run, the international community
500 observers. In Zimbabwe we can expect no more than a few hundred at
most - and then these will have limited resources for travel and
communications. Any meaningful supervision must therefore come from the
NGO's this time (unlike 2000 and 2002) will be excluded by law, from
whole process from voter education to polling agent training,
supervision. We will need at least 60 000 polling agents and at least
vehicles to deploy people and supervise activity and to respond to any
problems on the day. Our agents will have to be deployed on Friday and
down on Sunday. Many will require food and other support in the field.
This whole process is supposed to be under the control and management
Independent Electoral Commission. New legislation provides, not for an
Independent Commission but a "Zimbabwe" Electoral Commission, which is
independent or autonomous and has not even been appointed. Instead we
totally partisan structure in place, which is managed by State Security
Agents and the Military personnel, all of whom are selected for their
loyalty to Zanu PF.
In 2002 this partisan structure was overseen by a group of powerful
Ministers who actually gave the orders and decided what was needed for
to "win" at any cost. No doubt the same situation will prevail this
around - the only difference being that they will not have Saturday
decide how far to go. This time those decisions have to be made in
and the action to be taken agreed and implemented during the one day of
For voters in Zimbabwe who are eligible - remember that you can check
vote and change your constituency if it is wrong, from the 17th to the
of January this year. Go and do this as whatever the conditions under
we will vote, the March 2005 elections may be an opportunity to change
circumstances under which we live today.
Bulawayo, 12th January 2005.