Vote buying, Zanu PF's software

HARARE - Parcelling of land to Zanu PF youths in Norton ahead of last Saturday’s by-election which eventually won by an independent candidate and former legislator Themba Mliswa is akin to vote buying, political and social commentators contend.

In a bid to win votes in the hotly contested Norton by–election pitting Zanu PF candidate Ronald Chandiedza, Mliswa and David Choga of the National Constitution Assembly (NCA), Zanu PF unveiled 5 000 residential stands to its party youths.

The stands were handed over to them by the party’s secretary Kudzai Chipanga.

Election Resource Centre (ERC) director Tawanda Chimhini said reports received by his organisation pertaining to campaigning ahead of the Norton by-election suggest vote buying especially considering unchallenged indications that residential stands had been parcelled out at rallies with those doing so explicitly giving conditions for the stands being support for one political party.

“While the code of conduct for political parties, the instrument that regulates conduct of political parties, candidates and their supporters, does not make mention of vote buying, it does mention bribery among the prohibited conduct during elections.

“Section 6 (f) of the Code of Conduct notes that no political party or any of its members or supporters and no candidate or any of his or her supporters may bride a voter to exercise his or her vote in a particular manner.

“That being said, there is no doubt that the parcelling of stands on a partisan basis during campaign rallies is in clear violation of the code of conduct and the involved candidate, political party and their supporters should be held accountable for such violation if investigations verify the violation.”

Chimhini said the fact that media reports have noted the possible violations should be enough to prompt action from the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission.

“However the unfortunate element in terms of mechanisms that exist to curb possible violations to the code of conduct is the glaring absence of enforcement provisions. This, in the ERC's view, is one of the many gaps that have over the years been left in the legislative and administrative frameworks of our election.

“Sustaining vague provisions that could easily address electoral irregularities could be a deliberate strategy to give an unfair advantage to the parties with access to resource.”

Chimhinhi said the ERC insists that given what has been obtaining in by-elections and in order to improve the credibility of our election processes ahead, “it is inevitable that the legislative and administrative frameworks for elections be exhaustively, inclusively and transparently reviewed.”

MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai’s spokesperson Luke Tamborinyoka said Norton has provided ample evidence why reforms are necessary ahead of the 2018 election.

“If you have people being beaten up at a sanctioned rally as Zanu PF did to Mliswa's supporters and when you have overt vote buying as confirmed by this distribution of stands ahead of an election, then you know we have to brace for a violent election.

“And in all these instances, ZEC maintains the silence of the grave even though what is happening is a gross violation of election regulations.

“They must brace for the mother of all wares because we are not going to relent on comprehensive reforms to ensure that the people's will is upheld and respected,” said Tamborinyoka.

He added that the signs that came from Norton were very disturbing. “We are a long way off from credible elections.”

Playwright Leonard Matsa said: “It’s sad our politicians think of our people's welfare nothing beyond political fodder especially during elections.

“While they might see vote buying as political dexterity, this is in fact affirmation of policy failure and inability to appeal through service.”

Political commentator Mcdonald Lewanika said the use of land (re)allocation to buy voters they cannot persuade is an established Zanu PF of strategy, “first in the rural areas as we saw in the 2000s and now as we see in Norton and as we saw (Saviour) Kasukuwere do to mobilize young people to feign support for Mugabe ahead of their march in May.

“While it is good that people get land for farming and housing, those getting it must know that it is a poisoned chalice as it is mortgage against Zanu PF of support and because of the improper way it is done can be taken away at any time after they have delivered the vote.”

Lewanika said while this is tantamount to vote buying, as a strategy it cannot be used to buy majority votes in the 2018 election.

“Land is finite and at some point those who are lucky enough to receive and hold on to it need to ask when the price is fully paid, while for those receiving food, they need to ask whether they are willing to exchange a fish for their votes instead of fishing rods through sound and fair governance,” said Lewanika.

Media activist Tabani Moyo agreed that this is the software that Zanu PF has employed over these years starting with the land grabs when it saw that it was losing grip in the face of new opposition then.

“The same has happened in the distribution of food and other basic requirements of our existence that have been politicized for narrow political ends.

“You also track it to the awarding of unplanned gratuities back then in 1997 that crashed the economy. It’s equally traceable in the failed companies grab through the infamous Empowerment act among others,” said Moyo.

He added that the footprints are also visible in the so called Command Agriculture, a shadowy scheme for political ends. “As elections draw nearer, you shall see an upscale in the dolling out of mining clams, residential stands, tenders as a way of releasing money from government for party activities.”

ZimRights director Okay Machisa said they have always maintained that there is no political will to implement the constitution fully. “Section 155 subsection 1d specifies clearly that any election or referendum must be free from violence and other electoral malpractices where vote buying is one of them.

“Parcelling of state resources especially residential stands at political rallies is clearly vote-buying. It’s very sad that instead of reforming for good, Zanu PF is expediting unconstitutional and illegal electoral practices.

“It is only that one day when the people will say enough is enough. And that day shall be fulfilled one of the days to come.”

Political commentator Maxwell Saungweme said what happened in Norton was simply vote-buying.

“It’s fraudulent electoral practice. That's how Zanu PF starts rigging elections. Rigging does not happen on voting or counting days. But it starts now with electoral malpractices such as this.

“Zanu PF has little hope to offer to the masses and it is likely that they will continue parcelling freebies and land to buy votes towards the run-up to 2018 polls.

“Opposition parties should start challenging some of these moves now in courts and in parliament and not wait for 2018,” said Saungweme.

Political commentator George Makoni said Zanu PF is targeting the youths through giving them housing stands because they are poor and desperate, hence they will accept the offer.

“It then becomes easy for the party to use them as cannon fodder in perpetrating violence. The youths’ constituency has also been targeted as a replacement of the party’s key campaigning constituency, the war veterans whose majority has parted ways with Zanu PF.

“The use of carrot and stick approach has always been Zanu PF’s strategy in all the past elections, particularly using their unfair advantage over the control of national resources,” said Makoni.

Media practitioner Rashweat Mukundu said the parcelling of land is certainly problematic close to Election Day. “It's akin to vote buying and the use of state resources for electioneering. These are genuine matters that ZEC must be concerned about.

“This stands for votes strategy will likely be used in 2018, but then you can only give out so much land.”

Social commentator Stephen Tsoroti said: “It's quite open that Zanu PF is using this ploy to win votes and it is going to be unfortunate if people vote thinking this is going to solve problems that are more than just owning a stand.

“Look, people need accommodation, but there are more urgent matters like solving the unemployment problem, corruption which is rampant and causing considerable damage to the economy.

“Issues of water provisions which are critical in Norton should be core issues of this by-election. Remember, the needs of the constituency must be addressed before parties jump into creating more problems.”

Human rights activist Dewa Mavhinga said the votes for stands strategy is blatant vote buying, illegal and unconstitutional “as it discriminates against youths from other parties and appears designed to buy votes in the Norton by-election.

“It is illegal and criminal for government food aid to be given on a partisan basis.”

Political commentator Rejoice Ngwenya said: “According to the constitution and electoral laws, it is illegal to do anything in a constituency during an election that is deemed to be buying of votes.

“The tragedy is that Rita Makarau is watching this unfolds; and we have so-called democrats like Qhubani Moyo in ZEC who should be preventing this.

“As we already have said, under the current circumstances of Zanu PF hegemony, it is impossible to guarantee free and fair elections. I suggest that those participating and contesting against Zanu PF raise this issue in the courts.”

Political commentator Phillip Pasirayi said the parcelling of land for housing only to Zanu PF youths in Norton was a vote-buying gimmick.

“Land is at the core of the ruling party's electoral strategy not only to retain the Norton constituency but also to win the 2018 elections.

“The Zanu PF strategy is to neutralise the MDC influence in urban areas through distribution of patronage resources such as land to youths and women.

“Part of the Zanu PF electoral strategy is to identify state land in urban areas for distribution to party supporters for housing,” said Pasirayi.

He added that it is sad because these youths don't have money to develop those stands, hence they will end up selling them.

MDC spokesperson Obert Gutu said Zanu PF has since thrown all caution to the wind. “They were smelling a humiliating defeat in the Norton by-election and as such the regime decided to embark on a grandiose vote-buying scheme wherein un-serviced residential stands in Norton are being dished out like confetti to all prospective voters.

“In fact, this vote buying plot of dishing out un-serviced residential stands in urban and peri -urban areas will be Zanu PF's way of doing business as we approach Election 2018.”

Post a comment

Readers are kindly requested to refrain from using abusive, vulgar, racist, tribalistic, sexist, discriminatory and hurtful language when posting their comments on the Daily News website.
Those who transgress this civilised etiquette will be barred from contributing to our online discussions.
- Editor

Your email address will not be shared.