Democratic Credentials

Since it was formed the MDC has fought 4 national election campaigns. The first was the referendum in March 2000, which we won despite estimated rigging of the vote by 15 per cent, then the Parliamentary elections in June 2000. In this second election the MDC took a small majority of the votes cast and 57 out of 120 seats. In the Presidential elections held in March 2002, the MDC garnered just over 40 per cent of the vote cast and then in 2005 the MDC won 41 of the 120 seats up for election by universal suffrage.

To the casual observer these 4 elections seem to show that the electoral base of the MDC has shrunk from the high of 55 per cent of the vote in March 2000 to just over 40 per cent in March 2005. However what such a deduction does not reveal is the massive efforts by the ruling Party to subvert the whole democratic process. After the shock of the March 2000 referendum result, where the ruling Party in reality, only secured 35 per cent of the votes cast in favor of the referendum, the Party threw everything they had at subverting the democratic process itself.

What they did was to unleash a campaign of violence and intimidation against all who apposed them - no matter what they stood for. They then closed down the free press and intensified Party control over all State owned media - television, all radio broadcasts, two dailies and 5 weekly newspapers. They gerrymandered the boundaries of constituencies reducing the number of urban seats to one third of the total despite the fact that the urban areas contain over 65 per cent of the adult population.

As far as the electoral process itself, they disenfranchised nearly half of all adults - by denying those who live outside Zimbabwe the vote as well as all with any foreign parentage. They automatically registered all those who were recognized as being pro Party and restricted access for all others. They put the voters roll on computer and installed sophisticated software to manipulate voter distribution and constituency boundaries. They allowed two million dead voters to remain on the roll and manipulated them to assist in the whole process.

On the day of voting itself, they denied people the right to vote, intimidated thousands and used violence to restrict the activities of the opposition and any civic groups. They used the administration process to inhibit candidates and to restrict campaigning and poll supervision. They restricted the activities of civic bodies concerned with voter education and voter registration. They denied the opposition access to the State media, especially radio. They used food as a weapon of coercion in all rural areas. They also used access to schools and tertiary institutions as well as access to all State employment and low income housing for the purpose of voter intimidation. They brought in and co-opted traditional leaders and spent billions of State funds in patronage payments.

As if this was not enough, they created a massive system to rig the actual vote and if required on the day, the counting of the vote. The whole process was placed under military and CIO control and a small group of security Ministers and officials directed the exercise from secret offices in Harare. A national communications network was created to manage the system.

In the Presidential elections in March 2002, all of these mechanisms were used and despite this, they still had to mount a huge operation on the Saturday night of the election (which was held over two days), to create and stuff into ballot boxes 800 000 votes to give Mr. Mugabe the majority he was demanding over his "upstart rival" Morgan Tsvangirai. The problem with the rigging in this particular election is that it was so large and so widespread that it could not be disguised or hidden.

I took part in all these election campaigns and we were absolutely sure that we (the MDC) had won the June 2002 presidential election by a wide margin. When the results came out to say we were stunned is to put it mildly - we ha d thrown everything we had into the process just to be robbed. The question was what could we do? We did one thing that was still open to us and was still a possibility - we took the election result to Court on the 12th April 2002.

In terms of Rule 31 of the Electoral Rules, all such appeals must be dealt with as matters of urgency. This is logical as the process being challenged elected the State President and if the challenge was upheld then he would no longer be able to carry out his duties and a new election would have to be held.

It is now 3 years and 4 months since the challenge was submitted to the Courts and the matter has still not been heard. In the aftermath of the 2000 parliamentary elections the MDC took 38 Zanu elected parliamentarians to Court in a similar exercise, 12 cases were heard in 5 years, 7 were ruled in favor of the MDC and the incumbent declared not elected. The ruling Party simply appealed the decisions and only two appeals were heard before the March 2005 elections - both were ruled in the favor of the MDC but it was then too late for the MDC to take up their new seats and Parliament was prorogued prior to the 2005 elections. Justice delayed is justice denied. We have little doubt that had all these cases been heard and ruled on that the MDC would have taken control of Parliament 4 years ago.

As for the 2002 challenge the record is equally shameful. The MDC had to take the Registrar General to Court 7 times before he complied with the Electoral Act and brought the ballots to Harare for inspection. He then only did so after the Courts had fined him Z$5 million and threatened to send him to Prison.

Even then what has happened since then is so bizarre as to make good material for a farce. The State has tried to block the use of experts to examine the ballots and the voters roll used (denied to the MDC until last month). When the MDC demanded that the first constituency to be examined would be Rushinga - a known Zanu stronghold where more people voted than were registered - the ballot boxes were "not available". 7 out of 10 boxes could not be found. When finally they were found they were brought to Court accompanied by a letter from the State Attorney to the effect that once surrendered to the Courts they no longer had any control over them - that night the High Court was broken into and the targeted ballot boxes broken into and ballots destroyed and torn.

The inspection was suspended and is now scheduled to resume on the 10th August. But no sooner had this been decided than the CIO pitched up at the home of the person being used by the MDC to run the sophisticated computer driven scanners and software to analyze the ballots and the voters roll. What did they do? They confiscated all the equipment and took it away for examination. To get it back the MDC had to go to the High Court for an injunction and this was granted last week and the equipment recovered.

Just what they are trying so hard to hide is not difficult to guess at, what we do when we finally get to look into this Pandora's box is quite another thing! One thing is clear - Mugabe does not need this challenge right now with what is going on in Pretoria.

By my calculations the support base of the MDC has actually grown over the past five years - in a "normal" democracy, my calculations are that the MDC should have won the March 2000 referendum by a margin of 65 to 35 per cent. The subsequent parliamentary elections by 76 seats to the MDC and 44 to Zanu PF and the presidential election in March 2002 by a margin of two thirds. The latest election would have yielded a huge majority for the MDC - CIO estimated that the Party won 94 seats out of 120. Others were less generous but still gave the MDC a two-thirds majority.

Eddie Cross
Bulawayo, 6th August 2005