The Battlefield

Since mid 2010, Zanu PF has been calling for an election to end the GNU and establish just who is going to govern this country in the next decade. They have demanded elections several times since then - most recently at the end of 2012 for March 2013. Each time the MDC has responded that no election could be called unilaterally by one party to the GPA and without the agreement of the regional States in the SADC.

So they should have been more than ready when finally in January this year, the MDC decided that it was time to hold the elections. The draft Constitution has been adopted and will go to a referendum in two weeks time, then 4 months later, we will vote for a new government. The battle lines are drawn, the stage set for an election that will in many ways be more critical to us as a nation than the elections in 1980.

What does the battlefield look like at this point in time? We will probably have a new Constitution, this provides for new rules for Citizenship and other electoral reforms that must be implemented before the elections, these draft laws are under preparation and will be ready to come to Parliament after the referendum.

But the essential reforms required before we can consider the conditions for the elections as being 'free and fair' are still outstanding. The Electoral Commission now has a new Chairperson who I think is a competent and fair minded individual; that is not the case with half her colleagues or her entire staff who are by and large a collection of CIO and security personnel who have in the past organised rigging on a large scale to defend the position of Zanu PF. MDC is demanding that these staff be replaced by individuals who are professional and have no links with the security forces.

Then there is the Voters roll - still being held under lock and key at an army barracks and being fiercely defended by a Zanu PF loyalist - Jacob Mudede. But we know that the roll has been carefully manipulated with the help of external specialists, we know that half the voters on the roll are ghosts. Hundreds of thousands of ordinary Zimbabweans are unable to vote because they have been disenfranchised in the past decade by the Registrar Generals Office. We do not have the time to prepare a new roll so that all we can do is an audit and then conduct a new registration exercise mounted by a reformed ZEC. Despite letters from Parties and even the Prime Minister - they have still not released a copy of the roll to the MDC for scrutiny.

Then there is the media - radio stations, television and a dozen newspapers all spew out Zanu PF propaganda on a daily basis. Listen to the news and it sounds like a news service for Zanu PF. Even the new so-called independent radio stations are solidly and uniformly broadcasting Zanu PF messages and slogans. The only independent media are perhaps three newspapers and external broadcasts to Zimbabwe from London and Botswana. The first is jammed on a regular basis, the other they attack at every opportunity. To compound this media onslaught the Police are now confiscating radios that can pick up the short and medium wave foreign signals.

Finally there are the conditions on the ground - last weekend we had incidents of violence in several Districts, there can be no doubt that despite calls for non violent activity, violence is again raising its head. Political Parties are finding themselves being restricted in their activities and action is not being taken to control thugs who try to disrupt normal political activity.

If the Parties can navigate these minefields and get to the actual elections, the elephant in the room is the capacity of the system to rig the actual vote. We know from past experience that Zanu PF has had to progressively escalate their rigging activities in order to win elections. Eventually in June 2008, the rigging and violence were so serious that neither the AU nor the SADC would accept Mugabe's declaration that he had been elected President with over 80 per cent of the vote.

They use every trick in the book and quite a few that are not in any book - they did not invent these tactics, but they have become masters at the subterfuge. The question is how to stop it or at least limit its influence so that the democrats can succeed.

Since the G8 leaders meeting in June 2007, the Group has spent $4 billion in Zimbabwe in support of the GPA process. They have spent huge sums of money on food to keep the country stable while the politicians struggled with the reform process. South Africa has likewise spent many millions on fulfilling their role in this process. Thousands of hours of the time of regional leaders and diplomats have been invested in the process. If, after all this effort and money, we fail to conduct an election that is credible; an election that produces a result that is accepted by everyone as being a true reflection of the people's views; we would have wasted all these resources, time and effort.

This is high noon on Main Street in Zimbabwe. Everyone involved must focus on what is needed to allow every Zimbabwean to participate and vote in the upcoming election. To enable people to vote without fear or undue influence and to do so without any fear of the consequences. The election must be witnessed by the world and African and Global leaders must be able to support and endorse the outcome on the basis of reliable and accurate information at their disposal.

Eddie Cross
Bulawayo, 2nd March 2013