By Sij Ncube
Zanu (PF) is averse to wide-sweeping electoral reforms being demanded by the opposition as it fears legislating itself out of power, critics say, as MDC-T Morgan Tsvangirai ups the ante over requisite reforms ahead of future polls.
Tsvangirai has a nation-wide tour ostensibly to explain the party’s boycott of pending by-elections in 14 constituencies. He told a rally in Masvingo on Saturday that “no reforms no elections”, adding that the party was sticking to its October congress resolution to boycott all elections until Mugabe implemented far-reaching electoral reforms.
Critics charge that the present flawed electoral laws continue to give Mugabe’s long-ruling party an advantage over opponents and accuse Zanu PF of working in cohorts with the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission to rig elections in its favour, charges the party vehemently denies.
The MDC-T further accuses ZEC of being biased towards Zanu PF, claiming its secretariat is packed by state security agents, including the military and Mugabe’s spies.
In its demands the MDC-T wants ZEC to undertake a biometric national voter registration exercise that will give rise to the creation of a clean and accurate voters’ roll, arguing that the voters’ roll that was inherited from the Registrar – General’s office by ZEC is littered with gross irregularities that include, but are not limited to, the inclusion of thousands of names of deceased people.
It further demands that all political parties and players should be accorded equal and unfettered access to the State – controlled print and electronic media in accordance with the provisions of the new Constitution of Zimbabwe that was adopted in May, 2013.
“All the provisions of the new Constitution of Zimbabwe should be implemented to enable Zimbabweans to enjoy their rights as clearly espoused in the Bill of Rights e.g. there should be genuine opening up of the airwaves instead of giving radio and television licences only to Zanu PF – affiliated companies and individuals,” reads party of the MDC-T demands in possession of VOP.
Regarding traditional leaders, the party demands that they should be completely apolitical in accordance with the dictates of the new Constitution of Zimbabwe, pointing out that the Zanu PF regime should not commandeer and intimidate traditional leaders to partake in partisan political activities.
It demands that all political parties and players should have free and unrestricted access to all corners of the country. No political party should be prevented from holding meetings, rallies etc. in any part of Zimbabwe.
All elections to be held in Zimbabwe should be in strict accordance with the SADC norms and conditions for the holding of free and fair elections and that election observers from SADC, the AU, the EU, the UN etc. should be free to come and observe any elections that are held in Zimbabwe.
But analysts doubt Mugabe and Zanu PF would accede to the opposition demands, saying doing so would tantamount to negotiating themselves out of power.
They (Zanu PF) simply want to continue to be in power.
Maxwell Saungweme, a development analyst closely following Zimbabwe politics, believes reforms would mean opening up competition and levelling the playing field.
“With people suffering so much due to Zanu PF misrule over the years, most people are unlikely to vote Zanu (PF). Electoral reforms will affect the Zanu PF election rigging machinery and increase the party’s chances of being defeated in free and fair elections, which Zanu would not want,” said Saungweme.
Tawanda Chimhini, the executive director of Elections Resource Centre, a local think-tank, says electoral reforms, especially implemented timeously would ensure the close of space for subverting the people’s will in elections.
“I can’t speak on behalf of Zanu PF but it may be safe to assume that it’s reluctance to allow reform may be tied to the implications such action would have on their electoral prospects,” he said.
Obert Gutu, MDC-T national spokesman, is adamant electoral reforms are the way to go in order to defeat Zanu PF in pending polls.
“We anxiously await the complete and total dismantling of the ZEC secretariat that is packed with military and State security personnel. This type of compromised administration cannot be trusted with the important task of running elections. A brand new secretariat composed of professional election administrators must be urgently put in place,” said Gutu.
He added that the MDC-T would not accept cosmetic changes that are meant to hoodwink the people of Zimbabwe into believing that the Zanu PF regime has finally reformed.
“After all, a leopard never changes its spots.”
But critics of the opposition are quick to point out that it is surprising for the MDC to complain about reforms, claiming their calls for reforms could be mere politicking, noting that they were part of an inclusive government for almost five years and failed to push for the said reforms.
“They even participated in the 2013 elections and in fact they even argued defending the new constitution that it was going to yield free and fair elections,” political analyst Blessing Vava observes.