Opinion: Holding of fake elections in Zimbabwe
HOLDING OF FAKE ELECTIONS IN ZIMBABWE by Linda Masarira
- The role played by the ruling party ZANU – PF
- The complicity of the opposition parties
There have never been free, fair and credible elections in Zimbabwe since 2000 particularly in the rural areas where the majority of voters live (about 70 %) accounting for 143 contestable constituencies out of 210. Voters are coerced to vote for ZANU PF against their will through violence and intimidation and this has always assured ZANU PF of predetermined and illegitimate election outcomes in their favour.
The ZANU PF and Mugabe’s strategy of forcing the electorate to vote against their will involves the following:Feedback
- ZANU PF forces rural voters to attend their political meetings/rallies against their will where they are told how to vote for ZANU PF. Those that attend opposition rallies are identified, denounced and later punished.
- On voting day, voters are marshalled and frogmarched to polling stations by village heads and queue in a predetermined order with the village head at the back ordering everyone to vote for ZANU PF.
- Literate voters such as teachers, civil servants (In some cases ZEC polling officers) and known opposition party supporters are also intimidated and forced to feign illiteracy so that they are assisted to vote.
- There was widespread violence in the 2002 and 2008 presidential elections, Many people were assaulted, murdered and property was looted or destroyed. Women were also raped. ZANU PF succeeds in using this as a reference point to intimidate the electorate to vote against their will and the voters have nowhere to turn to for help.
- Violence during elections is state sponsored. Known perpetrators are not arrested. Polling day in Zimbabwe is made peaceful in order to hoodwink election observers into believing that elections are free and fair
This strategy of forcing voters to vote for ZANU PF against their will using violence, intimidation, coercion, destruction of property and abuse of traditional leaders started on a large scale during the by-elections held in the following constituencies:
Marondera West in 2000
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Bikita, Bindura, Makoni West, Chikomba in 2001
Presidential elections and Insiza by election in 2002
The strategy was perfected and employed on a greater scale in June 2008 Presidential elections run off. It usually focuses on coercing defenceless rural voters to vote for ZANU PF against their will. However in the 2008 Presidential elections run off, the strategy was used in urban high density areas as well.
In 2013 there was no widespread violence used but intimidation was rampant with war veterans and ZANU PF youths and officials threatening villagers with a repetition of 2008 atrocities if the rural voters disobeyed orders to vote for ZANU PF against their will.
WHY HAS THE STRATEGY WORKED
ZANU PF has been able to use the strategy of coercing people to vote against their will since 2000 with impunity due to the following:
No opposition party has ever fully exposed the ZANU PF strategy of coercing people to vote against their will. Instead the opposition dwells on minor, peripheral and sometimes fictitious issues. This is a diversion which takes away focus from the core issue of the ZANU PF strategy of coercing voters to vote against their will.
Examples Of Diversionary Issues And Tactics Used By Opposition Political Parties To Protect The Strategy
- They loudly accuse ZANU PF of using a defective voters roll to rig elections. However, the Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace (CCPJ) in the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) report notes that a voter’s roll can never be perfect in any country .A perfect voters roll cannot stop ZANU PF from coercing people to vote against their will.
- They call for the amendment, repeal and realignment of the country’s electoral laws. But it should be noted that ZANU PF and the state violate The Zimbabwean Constitution, local laws, regional and international laws in an effort to coerce voters to vote for ZANU PF against their will. Therefore adding more laws whilst existing ones are not being respected cannot solve the current problem.
- A shadowy Israeli organization named NIKUV which opposition parties have accused of manipulating election results in favour of ZANU PF is a creation of a discredited Facebook character Baba Jukwa, in 2013, yet coercion of rural voters has happened since 2000. Thus this NIKUV fiction came when we already had our problem
- The ZEC Report on the 2013 Harmonized Elections and the findings of an investigation into Mliswa’s Complaint in the 2015 Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission (ZHRC) Report, clearly highlighted the ZANU PF strategy of coercing voters to vote against their will as the major rigging mechanism. These reports were tabled in Parliament. However, opposition parties looked the other way and never discussed them.
- The Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission in its pre-election press statement of 29 July 2013 reiterated that “we are ready to receive complaints about any possible election related human rights violations and any other general human rights violations…We will take appropriate action where necessary including, but not limited to, directing the Commissioner General of police to investigate cases of suspected criminal violations of human rights as constitutionally mandated.” However, opposition political parties have failed to work with and take advantage of well-meaning constitutionally constituted state institutions to deal with electoral state sponsored violence.
- In 2013 there were 9670 polling stations in the country. There is no evidence that a single opposition party identified the problem of forcing voters to vote for ZANU PF. Yet almost all election observers picked it.
- In the March 2008 Harmonized Elections ZANU PF relaxed the strategy of forcing voters to vote against their will. This was due to the intervention of SADC. Results were displayed at all polling stations and they were signed by party polling agents. This meant that each party could come up with its own results for councillors, Members of Parliament and the Presidential candidate. In April 2008, a recount was done in 23 constituencies. A verification process was conducted at the Sheraton Hotel at which every political party was required by SADC to produce its own results. The MDC – T failed to produce their own Presidential candidate’s election results. They could therefore not contest the results announced by ZEC. This failure possibly prejudiced the MDC candidate and the people of Zimbabwe of a great victory.
- Opposition parties now believe that massive voter registration is the panacea for all our electoral problems. The message being relayed is that voters should gather courage and defy ZANU PF orders by refusing to vote against their will. Elections are not meant for brave voters. In the first place they must never be coerced to vote against their will. Opposition political parties and civil society organizations should therefore advocate, canvass and lobby for an end to the coercion of voters to vote against their will and not canvass for bravery. The brave ones are usually abducted and killed and voters have experienced this.
EVIDENCE OF COERCION OF VOTERS BY ZANU PF
The following observations demonstrate the lack of “one man, one vote” in the 2013 elections and how voters were coerced to vote for ZANU PF against their will:
- In its 2013 Report, The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) adopted various election observer missions that concluded that the 2013 Harmonized Elections did not meet the criteria of free, fair and credible elections. The Catholic Commission For Justice and Peace Zimbabwe (CCJPZ) observed pre- election, election and post – election environment where all of the above irregularities were rampant and observed that :
Between 2011 and 2013, a War Veteran leader, Mr. Jabulani Sibanda, moved around the country, threatening people with death should his political party, ZANU PF, lose the ‘next elections’ Masvingo Province: Between July 2011 – January 2012; July 2013 he worked with traditional leaders to organize Ward meetings for example in Bikita, Gutu, Chiredzi, Nyika, Mukaro, Chivi, Mwenezi and Masvingo Districts. Told people during ward/village meetings that if ZANU PF looses the next elections, ‘hell will break loose’ as all people will be killed. At some meetings, he said if ZANU PF loses elections, he would slaughter everyone and roast their livers.
Polling Stations Incidents
- Harare (Mashonaland East Province) Mutoko East constituency, Ward 17 at Chipfiko Primary Polling Station. One woman was forced to have her vote cast by a known person (as an assisted vote). This was done because the woman was known to have been an MDC supporter/sympathizer so she was forced to be assisted by a ZANU PF member
- Mutoko district, Mutoko East Ward 18, Bwanya Primary Polling Station.There was a man who assisted someone else to vote. When he then wanted to vote, he was told he also needed to be assisted.
- Masvingo Mutikizizi Primary school, Bikita South. Generally, the number of assisted voters across the diocese was high with some well-known teachers, nurses and other literate people being assisted to cast their votes. Since the observers were local, they could distinguish between those who genuinely needed assistance and those manipulated into being assisted. At Mutikizizi primary school in Bikita South the observer was a teacher and witnessed his former ‘O’ Level student being assisted to vote not by his relative but by the chairperson of a political party.
- Gokwe (Midlands/ Matebeleland Provinces) – St. Hughs Polling Station and Mutukanyi Primary Polling Stations: 145 voters were assisted by political party agents. At Mutukanyi Primary Polling Station, a political agent assisted 63 voters. Kwayedza School Polling Station 52 people were allowed to vote on behalf of others Chitsa Polling Station 12 people were assisted to vote as they claimed to be blind. When the presiding officer was asked by an observer why the number of blind voters was that high at the polling station, the presiding officer told the observer that he was not an optician.Chomuuyu, Gunguwe Shingai, Mhumha and Chimhamhari Polling Stations. People known to be highly literate, and even many youths were seeking assistance to vote. At Shingai and Mhumha Polling stations, a political agent voted for 53 and 61 people respectively.Mtanki SDA Primary School Polling Station (Gokwe South) – 32 people were assisted to vote.
Incident Summary Of Assisted Voters
The CCJPZ observed intimidation and coercion, especially by some traditional leaders through “group/village voting”. This involved instances where voters were instructed to take turns to vote under the watchful scrutiny of their Village Heads. There were also several incidents that involved traditional leaders lining up villagers, making a note of their ID numbers and sending them to specific polling stations to vote. This was particularly common in Bikita, Mwenezi, Gutu, Gokwe and Mutoko. In some cases, voters were given a voting number which some of the traditional leaders claimed they could use to trace whom the voter voted for. The following cases are examples of how assisted voting was forced:
- Case 1: Justifying voting without assistance. On 31st July 2013 Mrs. China was asked by a local political activist why she voted without assistance as she was supposed to be assisted during voting. Mrs China said she was not illiterate that is why she voted on her own. Mrs. China reported the case to a Police Officer outside the polling room. The Police Officer announced to the queuing voters to stop such ‘bad crimes.’ However the Police Officer didn’t probe the matter any further. The political activist is still at his home. The Police Officer did not take any effective action.
- Case 2: How somebody was assisted to vote. It was just a day after the election and I visited Mrs. Phiri, one of the assisted voters. As an observer l asked her why she was assisted to vote and she told me that as she went to the polling station and was about 150m away from the station she met five people standing on the road. Mrs. Phiri was instructed to stop by the group and one lady, who seems to be the leaders said: “you have told us that you no longer support any other political party except ZANU PF so to be clear and honest to us today you are illiterate / unable to read and write and you should be assisted to vote by any one of us. If you disagree nothing is going to be given to you like maize and you may be at risk soon after the elections.” Mrs. Phiri told me that she was warned not to say that she was forced to pretend illiteracy, but to say she was illiterate. Out of fear Mrs. Phiri complied and went with one of the ladies to assist her in voting. This method was conducted in the whole ward. In each and every way to the polling station ZANU PF deployed its members to threaten people so that they vote for ZANU PF.
- In 2015 The Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission ( ZHRC ) investigated complaints of human rights violations by an Independent Candidate (Temba Mliswa) in the June 10 Hurungwe West By – Elections in Mashonaland West Province of Zimbabwe and found that :
- ZANU PF violated Constitutinal Rights Section 67,The Electoral Act (Chapter 2 : 13),Criminal law ( Codification and reform) Act [Chapter 9: 23],International Law on Human Rights, African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights, SADC Principles and Guidelines governing democratic Elections.
- Ignatius Chombo, the current Home Affairs Minister in Zimbabwe, threatened opposition supporters with violence and not to allow Mliswa’s rallies in the constituency.
- In the case between Mliswa’s Personal Assistant, Goodwill Zinyama and others, File Number HHRE/CI/333/15, the ZHRC report stated that state sponsored violence was meted out to Mliswa’s workers and opposition supporters at Mliswa’s farm.
- At Murereshi business centre in ward 26 residents stated that they were being forced to attend ZANU PF rallies and that at one rally they were told that if Mr Keith Guzah loses, the ruling party would deal with them.
- Village heads connived and worked with ZANU PF against the Independent candidate. There was total disregard of the law as 3 village heads were unprocedurally “dethroned “at a public meeting by ZANU PF.
- Many other independent election observers in the country have also unearthed similar incidents of electoral irregularities. An example is the Heal Zimbabwe Trust report on the recently held Bikita West By- Election on 21 January 2017 where it was noted that :
- Actors in the Pre-Election Day Violations
- Heal Zimbabwe established that most of the violations committed in Bikita West were largely meant to harvest fear for electoral victory. Members of the Executive arm of the government, Members of Parliament, ZANU PF leaders and supporters as well as Traditional leaders were the major actors in perpetrating human rights violations and inciting violence. Members of Parliament and the Executive who incited violence and perpetuated human rights violations in Bikita West include; the Masvingo Resident Minister, Hon Shuvai Mahofa, Josiah Hungwe (Minister of State for Liaising on Psychomotor Activities in Education Vocational Training), Joseph Chinotimba (Buhera South MP) Jeppy Jaboon (Bikita South MP) Webster Shamu (Chegutu East MP). Most of these government officials incited violence through their speeches at rallies as well as perpetuating human rights violations by acts of commission and omission. ZANU PF leaders and supporters participated in perpetuating intimidation and partisan distribution of food aid and farming inputs mostly. Traditional leaders perpetuated human rights violations by accepting to be used as political commissars who mobilised villagers to political rallies. They also commanded people to vote for a specific political party instead of maintaining neutrality as prescribed by law. For example Chief Mupakwa called for a meeting at his homestead on the 7th of January 2017 and commanded all people in attendance to vote for ZANU PF failure of which one would be expelled from the village. Chief Marozva also ordered Village Heads under his jurisdiction on the 3rd of January where he implored them to mobilise people to attend a rally scheduled for the 4th of January 2017. The constitution prohibits traditional leaders from campaigning or aligning to any political party or grouping for the purposes of maintaining neutrality and objectivity in their work. Section 281 (2a-b) states that traditional leaders must not “be members of any political party or in any way participate in partisan politics” and “act in a partisan manner.”
- Polling Day Environment
- There were incidences of human rights violations with intimidation recording 88% and forced attendance to a political meeting after voting recording 12%. Heal Zimbabwe visited 46 polling stations and within all the polling stations cases of intimidation were noted within the 100 metre radius where polling agents and ZANU PF youth were writing down people’s names after voting.
- Forced attendances
- Some villagers in Bikita West constituency were also forced to attend political gatherings and meetings. This violation recorded 12% of the total violations observed from the 1st of January 2017. Forced attendance was done through force-marching people, using traditional leaders to call for meetings and through door to door visits. The constitution in section 67(2a) specifies that every citizen has the right “to form, to join and to participate in the activities of a political party or organisation of their choice” yet in Bikita people were threatened with violence if they did not attend rallies. They were told that if they did not attend, they will have their names written down and become targets of violence, face unspecified action or denied food aid.
- It can be said that the people of Zimbabwe have not yet achieved what they fought for, ie One Man One Vote. The Rhodesia Front leader Ian Smith was quoted to have said “I don’t believe in black majority rule ever in Rhodesia – not in a thousand years. “ On the other hand ZANU PF quoted in the ZEC 2013 Report told people at their rallies that “There will be war if people do not vote for ZANU PF. If people want peace ,vote for ZANU PF,War is bad but you can avoid it by voting for ZANU PF,This country will not be ruled by any other political party just because of an X “.
- The ZANU PF strategy of coercing voters to vote against their will is simple, basic and blatant. It has existed since the 2000 by – elections to present because the opposition political parties have chosen to look the other way and continue to sing the now familiar and hollow chorus that “Elections have been rigged.“ It is time the civic society, churches and all responsible Zimbabweans begin to advise the urban electorate, the Southern African Development Commission (SADC), The African Union (AU) and other international bodies that rural voters are forced to vote for ZANU PF against their will in all elections.
Linda Tsungirirai Masarira
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