By Dumisani Muleya
The just-ended Zanu (PF) youth and women’s league elections ahead of the party’s congress in December have further exposed its flawed internal processes and lack of in-house democracy as corrupt practices get firmly embedded in the structures.
More than anything else, the youth and women conferences showed electoral manipulation in its various manifestations is now rooted in Zanu PF’s organisational culture, practices and structures.
The polls exposed that systematic intimidation, in this case mainly kidnappings, vote-buying and fraud — problems which the party from the lowest member right up to President Robert Mugabe’s level admitted to — have now become structural.
It is ironic Mugabe, including Thursday when he was addressing the Women League’s conference, has been bitterly complaining about the problem which he referred to as a “mess” as if it was new and unusual to him.
The problem is no longer just a “mess” but a crisis eroding Zanu (PF)’s internal democracy, efficiency and legitimacy. The party’s internal electoral and related processes are now hostage to fraudulent practices which can be located in the context of intensifying factionalism affecting institutional capacity stability.
Inevitably, the rot in Zanu (PF) has cascaded onto Zimbabwe’s national electoral politics. The linkages and ramifications of what is happening in Zanu PF have been evident in national politics, particularly the way the country runs its elections.
In fact, there is a depressing familiarity, déjà vu they call it in French, about what has happened in Zanu (PF)’s just-ended dodgy polls, including its primaries and provincial races last year, and the July 31, 2013 elections.
From 1980, Zimbabwe has never run free, fair and credible elections, except when Mugabe and Zanu (PF) were not under serious challenge like in 1995 and 1996.
In 1980, Zanu (PF) used violence and intimidation, as well as ethnic demographic manipulation, even though it was hugely popular, to win. In 1985, Zanu simply went for a deadly campaign of brutality against Zapu.
When Zum emerged in 1990, violence, later Zanu (PF)’s stock-in-trade after the emergence of the MDC in 1999, was deployed. What happened post-2000 at the height of the MDC’s popularity is now stuff of legend.
A whole state apparatus was mobilised to repeatedly manipulate elections through intimidation, violence, vote-buying and even ballot-rigging. After narrowly escaping defeat in 2000, Zanu (PF) went into overdrive to brazenly steal polls, particularly the 2002 and 2008 presidential elections in which ruthless violence anchored Mugabe’s battle for survival.
Last year’s elections — which Mugabe and his party are still unconvincingly trying to celebrate and present as a watershed — were clearly manipulated, rigged if you will.
The evidence: chaotic voters’ registration, registering voters illegally after the exercise had closed, voters’ roll irregularities, turning away of over half-a-million registered voters, use of fraudulent registration slips to vote unlawfully, duplication or missing of thousands of names, unusual high numbers of assisted voters, ghost voters and partisan electoral officials as well as security forces’ interference.
In other words, calculated disenfranchisement and deceit on a massive scale decided the outcome of last year’s elections, quite apart from Nikuv skullduggery.
That is why Zimbabwe is now an infamous reference point on electoral fraud, even by politicians in far-flung countries like Russia. Mugabe and his Zanu (PF) party have now become notorious the world over for blatantly rigging elections.
“These aren’t real elections … I have never been to Zimbabwe, but the comparison isn’t far from the truth!,” Russian Communist party candidate, Yuri Dzaganiya, once told former British Guardian foreign correspondent in Moscow, Luke Harding, who was expelled from Russia in 2011 for hard-hitting coverage of the Kremlin. Need I say more?