Free, fair, credible poll still achievable in Zim

HARARE - Ever since taking over the reigns of power in November last year, President  Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government has been touting its ability to stage free, fair and credible elections this year.

Whether this is going to be achieved remains largely dependent on the sincerity and confidence of the stakeholders, mainly within Zimbabwe and to some extent, outside our borders, in the country’s electoral processes and terrain currently obtaining.

Mnangagwa knows all too well how badly he needs to win as the elections will not only address issues of legitimacy but also give him power to see through the many promises he made to Zimbabweans.

Besides, after signalling that his modus operandi will be different from former president Robert Mugabe’s, Mnangagwa has to give in to a number of demands tabled by both opposition political parties as well as foreign nations that have influence on potential financial inflows into Zimbabwe.

Perhaps the very first thing we should look at is the issue of reforms. Difficult as it may seem, last week ZBC audiences were shocked to see opposition political party coverage. The MDC rally at Murewa was covered by ZBC and so was a Transform Zimbabwe (TZ) press conference in central Harare.

If the trend continues, surely the issue of access to the public media may no longer constitute a problem area.

On the other hand, the people are the real owners of the poll because it is them who vote in the first place. As such, government must urgently learn to be consistently sincere with them.

They deserve to be told the truth about the elections and there is no need to bully people into accepting political messages. Campaigning must be about persuasion and not coercion.

Half the time, there is a large gap between what government says and what obtains on the ground.

We have heard that foreign observers will oversee Zimbabwe’s crucial elections — one that will for the first time not have Mugabe and Morgan Tsvangirai, the late former leader of the Movement for Democratic Change.

Tsvangirai succumbed to cancer of the colon on Valentine’s Day after a long battle with the affliction, while long-ruling tyrant Mugabe was forced to resign following a military intervention in November last year.

Past experiences are one reason why people will be skeptical of government’s capacity to stage a free and fair election.

Past polls, were marred by violence, especially State-sanctioned. From around 2000, pre-election periods have been very violent with Zanu PF being the largest perpetrator of the violence.

So far, the MDC Alliance has been able to hold rallies countrywide without the slightest provocation or violence unlike during Mugabe’s reign when such opposition rallies were never easy to hold.

Even the police on several occasions banned the rallies, clearly acting on the instructions of Zanu PF.

This is one reason why the police as a law enforcement agency is today battling with the reconstruction of its image in the face of the public.

True, Mnangagwa enjoys the power of incumbency and it may not be easy to push him out. His plate is already full as he battles to placate crisis-weary Zimbabweans.

His zero tolerance on corruption stance lately appeared to be running out of steam. He has to start nabbing and locking up the real criminals.

The post-Mugabe euphoria is still with us, particularly in rural outposts and people still see potential in the administration that removed the 94-year-old former president.

Mnangagwa has already okayed the alien vote and whether the Diaspora vote is going to get the green light at the courts is not yet known.

Maybe by the time we get to the actual poll dates, a lot may have happened on the ground but already, the prevailing peaceful campaigning is not bad after all.

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