Opposition plots massive protests

HARARE - Angry opposition parties coalescing under the banner of the National Electoral Reform Agenda (Nera) will hold mass protests on March 22, to force the government to abandon its plans to hijack the procurement of biometric voter registration (BVR) kits for next year’s make-or-break national elections.

This comes amid grave concerns that the controversial decision by the government to take over the procurement process of the BVR kits from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) is a thinly-disguised attempt to rig the 2018 polls.

This is more so after opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai said earlier this week that Mugabe and his warring ruling Zanu PF were already allegedly working feverishly to steal next year’s watershed elections.

Nera’s head of legal affairs, Douglas Mwonzora, told the Daily News yesterday that they had been left “with no option but to protest” after the government’s suspicious decision to hijack the BVR procurement process.

“We have therefore set the 22nd of March as the date for a massive demonstration against this political abomination and we call upon all responsible Zimbabweans regardless of their political affiliation to rise up against this thuggery.

“We can ill-afford another stolen election next year. Depending on government’s reaction, the Harare protests will trigger more countrywide demonstrations and we are certainly aware that the authorities will respond with their usual heavy-handedness, but we are not afraid anymore.

“The demonstration will define whether Zimbabweans will make progress or will forever be confined to poverty under this regime,” Mwonzora, who is also the secretary-general of the MDC, said.

Controversy has erupted over the past few weeks following the government’s sudden decision to sideline the UNDP from assisting in the procurement of the BVR kits, with unanswered questions being raised about how and where the stone-broke administration was able to secure funding for this, to the staggering tune of $17 million.

A tender was floated in December and interested companies had an opportunity to present their bids through a process that was digitally-managed from Copenhagen, Denmark.

However, following the conclusion of the bidding process, the government announced two weeks ago that it would fund the purchase of the equipment, after pumping in $17 million.

This raised eye brows, with the opposition alleging that the government was hijacking the process to rig next year’s eagerly-anticipated national elections.

Last week, Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa told Parliament that the government was providing the funds required to buy the equipment, and that it was not booting out the UNDP.

But Mwonzora said opposition parties were certain the move by the government “marks the commencement of a well-planned rigging system for 2018 in which Mnangagwa is central”.

“What we are saying is that Mnangagwa lied in Parliament because we know he is part of the grand design to steal the election,” Mwonzora said.

This week, during his tour of Mashonaland East, Tsvangirai was told of an alleged elaborate plan by Zanu PF to rig next year’s polls, including misrepresenting to the villagers about the functioning of the BVR kits.

Tsvangirai’s spokesperson Luke Tamborinyoka said the former prime minister during the era of the stability-inducing government of national unity was gravely concerned by the “overwhelming information” that the MDC had received, which pointed to the fact that Zanu PF was “already in the process of stealing next year’s elections”.

“There is a plan by Zanu PF to steal next year’s elections. We have been on the ground here in Mashonaland East and what we are seeing and hearing is that Zanu PF wants to steal the next elections again, after they took over the BVR process, in addition to commandeering chiefs, village heads and headmen on board this devious scheme.

“However, we will do all that we can to ensure that traditional leaders are not abused and absorbed into Zanu PF structures? Indeed, the rights of traditional leaders must and will be observed,” the resolute Tamborinyoka said.

Traditional chief after traditional chief had apparently told Tsvangirai during his tour of the restive Mashonaland East province, which is traditionally a Zanu PF stronghold, that they were being forced to not only join the ruling party, but to also lead its cells and wards — and to actively work to help rig next year’s polls.

“The fearful village heads all said they were forced to be chairpersons of Zanu PF’s cells. That way, Zanu PF will coerce them to frog-march people to vote for the ruling party.

“So, the sum total of Zanu PF’s ploy is that it is assimilating traditional leaders into its partisan structures, abusing them in the process,” Tamborinyoka added.

And during his meetings in Mukumbura, Mashonaland Central, on Wednesday, village heads, pastors and civic leaders also told Tsvangirai how Zanu PF had allegedly manipulated the hotly-disputed 2013 polls.

It was claimed that Zanu PF had won the vote by directing voters to give their ballot-paper serial numbers to their headmen, who had marshalled the villagers to the polling stations and made them queue in a predetermined order.

Speaker after speaker spoke of how endemic fear and the rampant intimidation of communities, as well as the abuse of traditional leaders by Zanu PF had forced them to do the ruling party’s dirty bidding.

The Daily News was also told how a retired policeman had told Tsvangirai how he was allegedly forced to be an assisted voter, adding that several literate teachers and school heads had also been assisted to vote by known Zanu PF youths.

This comes as observer group, the Zimbabwe Election Support Network (Zesn), has asked the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) “to interrogate the huge numbers of assisted voters” in the 2013 poll.

Tamborinyoka also said community leaders had told the opposition leader of how they were often forced to engage in partisan food distribution and to coerce and frog-march people to vote for Zanu PF.

It was also claimed that during election times, villages were overwhelmed by Mozambicans who were allegedly provided with Zimbabwean identity cards to enable them to vote for Zanu PF.

“It was heartening to hear forsaken communities pledging to finish it all off by voting in a new dispensation in the watershed election of 2018,” Tamborinyoka said, adding that his boss had urged them to turn out in their numbers to register to vote so that they could vote for change.

Since last year, the MDC — working with other opposition parties through Nera — has been demanding comprehensive electoral reforms to level the political playing field.

It has also been engaging Zec, which it says is infested with Zanu PF functionaries who are there only to look after the interests of the ruling party.


Comments (2)

Zimbabweans, we will never learn from our mistakes. Zimbabwe does not need meek and naive people, it needs charismatic politicians. Announcing demonstrations in Zimbabwe is never gonna work because you are alerting mugabe and his militias aware, giving more time to put every cruel and harsh measures in place. Tsvangirai is an empty tin which makes loud noise thereby allowing the enemy to pick one's hiding place. He needs to learn more from the likes of Zvorwadza and Tajamuka, look at the way they organise themselves and people. Tsvangirai and the other lot always flop.

nhemacena - 3 March 2017

Demonstrations alone can not change anything. Lets not miss the point by concentrating too much on rigging. Lets move beyond rigging this time. Disunity amongst opposition is keeping. Both 2008 and 2013 election could have been won by opposition if they were together against their worst enemy zanu. Right now you are concentrating on wrong stuff avoiding the real things that takes presidency from zanu. MUTED COALITION. WHAT IS THAT? This beautiful thing must brought out to people now and allow them time to choose who they want to succeed Mugabe from our opposition position. Come together you opposition leaders and give it to the people of Zimbabwe to select who they want as President and Deputy President. Let the people speak not you. STOP IMPOSING LEADERS ON US. The opportunity should never be given to Party leaders only NO anybody in the opposition willing to put his name and let us know why they think they will do a good job. Sort the Democratic Parties Alliance now and let the people choose who they want Province by Province and the same Process later on to select who will represent the alliance as MPs for constituencies. The union we saw in 1987 was the worst ever one party Swallowing another during day light. That is wrong other parties should be allowed to exist within the Alliance. If everything is done fairly and square the people will accept it. This is the most important thing the opposition should be concentrating on now than to risk people's lives in the streets of Harare for no apparent outcome. Avoiding important issues because they can favour someone else is only favouring Mugabe. Rise up the people of Zimbabwe and tell our leadership the truth. If you have got the numbers prove it now by allowing the people to select you and we come firmly behind you. Trump was chosen to succeed Obama openly from his GOP from a pool of 16 candidates across America. WE CAN DO IT ZIMBABWEANS COME ON. COALITION IS THE ONLY WAY TO SUPERSEED RIGGING.

NEWNATION - 4 March 2017

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