Deceit and Deception

When the South Africans decided in January this year to have another go at trying to resolve the Zimbabwe crisis they had little real understanding of just how deceitful the Zanu PF regime can be when dealing with issues that affect its very survival. I have often said that when you shake hands with Mr. Mugabe, you in fact have little more than his hand in your own. Any deal with this regime is undermined constantly by their attempts to deceive.

Faced with the demand for elections in March 2008 and for them to be on a basis acceptable to the regional community and others, the regime, moving with its usual swift and ruthless determination when it comes to survival strategies, decided on a campaign which basically sought to smash the MDC as an organised political party; reduce its capacity to campaign; intensify controls over the basic necessities of life and to prevaricate when it came to the talks; drag them out for as long as possible and during that time further reduce the urban population by encouraging human flight.

The effect of these draconian strategies on the general population did not factor. In addition they were confident that they could manipulate the whole process and keep intact their system for vote rigging. They are past masters at the latter and some African States have looked at what goes on here with envy.

In fact the South Africans have pursued their goal in these talks with determination but even they must by now be totally frustrated by the tactics the Zanu PF team is using. While they talked, they beat the MDC to death. Thousands imprisoned, beaten and tortured. The cities starved of food and water. The rate of inflation accelerated by simply printing money, has destroyed incomes and savings and driven hundreds of thousands into penury. In response perhaps a million people have fled the country for greener pastures in the past year.

In a recent survey of wards in Harare the MDC found that half those registered to vote were simply no longer at the addresses listed. Many were dead and many had fled. The situation was particularly serious in the areas affected by Murambatsvina.

Then there is the situation in respect to the management of the elections. Previously an election administration was built up under the Registrar General together with security and military elements and they ran elections. They manipulated the voter's roll; the right to vote was compromised, false balloting and multiple voting by loyalists was openly undertaken as was voting under political supervision.

What did Zanu PF do in the talks? They agreed to changes - a new IEC and the IEC to take over the whole administration of the electoral system. They agreed to new regulations for the process, a new definition of citizenship. Then they simply tried to transfer the whole of their rigging operation across to the IEC - staff and all. The voter's roll remains distorted by past changes and manipulation and no effort is being made to update the roll for the elections. The final straw came when they actually tried to do the delimitation of the new constituencies without our knowledge or participation and approval and using the present voters roll.

This sort of action makes a complete mockery of the whole negotiations process. Its business as usual for Zanu PF and they think that they can get away with this behavior.

The reality is that we can do little about the destruction of the economy while this collection of criminals is in charge. We can do little about the flight of hundreds of thousands of our supporters to South Africa and elsewhere. But we can do something about the subversion of the talks because the SADC has committed itself to a free and fair election.

So what we have done is said very clearly to the facilitators and to anyone else who is listening that we will not accept a vote conducted purely on the basis of the present voters roll. We will not accept the present composition of the IEC or its staff appointments. We will not accept delimitation under these circumstances - we now want all of these measures set aside and only when the full agreement is in place and signed, will we then consent to starting to put the required administration in place. Zanu PF has to get used to a situation where they are no longer totally in control. They have to take our views into account or else there is simply no deal.

We hear talk on the local grapevine that the Police have received instructions to ease up on both POSA and AIPPA - we wait and see. We will not accept that real changes are taking place until we can see political activity actually being allowed to take place freely and without restraint or retribution. That is certainly not the case at present.

What we are doing on the ground is to start our campaign at grass roots - telling people to be ready if we eventually do get the kind of conditions we think are necessary for a free and fair election - if not campaign. What is crucial is to get the message across that people can vote in secret, that this time the result will not be manipulated by false ballots and miscounting and reporting and that real change is possible.

How many people will be left to vote on the day - whenever that will be, is anyone's guess. My own view is less than 3 million potential voters and a 60 per cent turnout - 1,8 million actual voting on the day. That is a far cry from the 6 million names that are on the present voters roll. I would expect the Diaspora to be able to vote - but the difficulties will severely restrict the numbers and we cannot expect this element to be more than marginally influential.

There is still near total disbelief here that Zanu PF will accept sufficient change to make a free and fair election possible. The jury is still out on this but we have been encouraged by the determination of the South Africans to do what is necessary to deliver such an outcome. For both countries, South Africa and Zimbabwe, this is a crucial turning point and opportunity. Failure is just not an option.

Eddie Cross
Bulawayo 30th November 2007