Hunting Facts, Telling Truth

Zimbabwe 2023 election; A case of voting without choice

Staff Writer

Zimbabwe held a shambolic poll on 23 and 24 August 2023 whose outcome of the presidential vote has been outrightly rejected by the mainstream opposition Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC). Domestic, regional, and international observer groups, particularly the Southern African Development Community (SADC) condemned the election as falling short of the Zimbabwean constitution and regional guidelines on election. This verdict is neither shocking nor unexpected, the entire election roadmap has been mired by questionable conduct of the electoral management body. What the world witnessed, and Zimbabweans experienced is an elaborate and deliberate process to undermine the fundamental right of the people to choose leaders of their choice. It is a subversion of the constitutional order and at this stage, I must state that the entire election stands as a nullity and not selected aspects. In this piece, I lay out the build-up to this sham, the tactics and methods deployed, the consequences of the electoral theft and contribute to what citizens can do to advance the struggle for democracy in Zimbabwe.

ZEC’s smokes and mirrors

The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) has the primary responsibility to conduct elections in terms of section 238 of the Constitution of Zimbabwe, the electoral act, and regional and international guidelines for democratic elections. However, ZEC has failed to discharge its mandate and has instead actively undermined prospects of the country holding elections ‘efficiently, freely, fairly, transparently and by the law.’ The very composition of ZEC is questionable, in 2022 new commissioners were appointed that included children of prominent ruling party politicians and have serving military personnel in its secretariat. Further, ZEC conducted a delimitation exercise in 2022 which failed to meet the requirements of the constitution. Electoral boundaries were heavily gerrymandered to favour the ruling party to retain a two-thirds majority. The electoral body refused to avail the voters’ roll and critical electoral information to the opposition and other stakeholders. Nomination fees were also pegged at unreasonably high costs, with presidential candidates forking US$20,000 and parliamentary candidates US$1,000. These fees were a barrier for women and young people to participate as candidates and therefore a violation of various provisions of the constitution which require gender equality and youth participation. On the days of polling themselves, ZEC failed to avail adequate ballot papers in Harare, Bulawayo and Manicaland provinces. This amounted to voter suppression in provinces where the opposition is dominant. Put simply, the entire roadmap to the 23 August 2023 ballot was reduced to a game of smokes and mirrors by subterfuge and illegal conduct of the commission.

Dark arts and malice

The conduct of the electoral body confirms all but one thing that it is captured by the ruling party and deep state. In this context, the deep state includes the securocrats, diplomats, mafias and top politicians who pull strings on how state institutions undertake their mandate. The first tactic we can observe from the conduct of ZEC is that it is captured and under direct control of forces outside provisions of the constitution, thus not independent. The ruling party abused access to state resources and voter information to gain an unfair advantage in the election. Financial resources were poured into the ruling party campaign by shadowy business characters and foreign embassies, particularly the Chinese, Russians and Belarusians. Public media was captured to provide partisan coverage to the ruling party and completely shut out the opposition and civil society from the media space. Further, ZEC refused to avail the final polling station voters roll used for the purported election in violation of the law. Intimidation was widespread and sporadic violence was recorded in some areas and one opposition activist was killed in Harare by alleged ruling party thugs. A shadowy organisation, Forever Associates Zimbabwe (FAZ), which is linked to state intelligence has been largely responsible for coordinating the intimidation of voters and active manipulation of the election. With the cover of pretending to be a private voluntary organisation, the outfit invaded rural communities where it marched villagers to vote for the ruling party. Voting, as noted above, was chaotic and characterised by a staged shortage of ballot papers in opposition strongholds as part of voter suppression. Counting and collation of votes was equally shambolic, and ZEC failed to produce verifiable numbers, especially for the presidential ballot. Adding insult to injury, ZEC did not provide a reasonable explanation as to why it had failed to provide ballot papers in fulfilment of its constitutional obligation. These and many other dark arts and acts of malice defined the build-up, conduct and announcement stages of the supposed election.

Fresh election now

Zimbabwe’s election can only be conducted in terms of the constitution and the law. ZEC failed dismally in adhering to these simple provisions and what it means is that we had no valid election held on the supposed polling days. Section 67 of the Constitution of Zimbabwe provides that every Zimbabwean citizen has a right (a) to free, fair and regular elections for any elective public office established in terms of this Constitution or any other law; and (b) to make political choices freely. The conduct of the electoral body undermined these and many other rights, thus rendering the entire exercise null and void. In short, Zimbabwe did not hold any election on 23 and 24 August 2023 and the only recourse is a fresh election. Such an election must be held under the direct administration of SADC and the AU. ZEC has proved beyond reasonable doubt that it is incapable of running a free, fair, credible and verifiable electoral process. As citizens, we have a right to freely choose our leaders yet the purported election on 23 and 24 August 2023 failed this test. We have the power to reject this illegitimate process and have the responsibility to act in demand of a fresh election.

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