Election run-up takes nasty turn

HARARE - As Zimbabwe's crunch national elections draw ever closer, the jostling for votes is increasingly taking an ominous tone — with leading presidential candidates and the under-fire chairperson of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec), Priscilla Chigumba, now major targets of social media abuse.

This comes as Zec has filed a formal report to the police against threats which it says have been made to its commissioners by irate people claiming to be opposition sympathisers — who have taken to social media to vent their frustrations with the national elections management body.

Indeed, a casual sampling of local social media timelines on an average day reveals the worrying extent to which President Emmerson Mnangagwa, opposition leader Nelson Chamisa and Chigumba in particular have become the targets of some of the most vile trolling imaginable anywhere.

This prompted analysts who spoke to the Daily News yesterday to call for “sense and decency” from social media users in particular — while also warning that what had promised to be a titanic, exciting poll on July 30 now risked being sullied by the increasing political tension in the country, as well as the growing reckless utterances of some political leaders and their supporters.

Just days after she was falsely said to have resigned from Zec, Chigumba was yesterday subjected to what came across as crude personal attacks — including by former State media editors — who not only said that the High Court judge should resign, but also made unconfirmed claims to the effect that she was allegedly romantically linked to one of the presidential contestants in the forthcoming elections.

“Chigumba must resign from her position at Zec. While her privacy must ordinarily be respected, there is a strong public interest argument in this instance where a private sexual relationship fetters the discretion of a judge.

“I will publish the full story (on these allegations) on Wednesday,” wrote former Sunday Mail editor Edmund Kudzayi yesterday on micro-blogging site Twitter.

Contacted by the Daily News for a comment last night, a diplomatic Chigumba would only say that she would not “sink to the level of commenting on spurious allegations”.

Prominent commentators who responded to Kudzayi’s claims accused him of trying to “slut-shame” the Zec chairperson by prying into her private life.

Among these personalities was political science scholar Chipo Dendere who questioned why the debate on July 30 elections had now degenerated into personal wars.

“Really? Must we do this? If she was a man no one would care how many people she’s been with and how many children she may or may not have.

“What Justice Chigumba does in private is just that — private. Her private life is none of our business. I don’t always agree with Zec,” she said.

But Kudzayi shot back saying: “Chigumba is well resourced and can sue me if I am lying that she is having sexual relations with a key player in this election. That in itself is a conflict of interest. I don’t care if you think I’m sexist”.

Zimbabwe will hold its crunch elections on July 30 — which for the first time in two decades will not feature both ousted former president Robert Mugabe and the late MDC founding leader Morgan Tsvangirai, who lost his valiant battle against colon cancer at the beginning of the year.

The July 30 elections have generated a lot of interest among both ordinary Zimbabweans and ambitious politicians alike, with many people anticipating a close contest between Zanu PF and the MDC Alliance.

Mnangagwa, 75, is seeking a substantive term in the impending elections, in which he will face the youthful Chamisa and 21 other presidential aspirants who include four women.

But the run-up to the crucial elections has been marred by growing tension and threats by the MDC Alliance to announce the results of the poll ahead of Zec, over fears that the national elections management body is compromised.

Apart from threatening to announce the results of the elections ahead of Zec, the MDC Alliance has also vowed to hold night vigils at the Zec offices until its demands have been met.

“This is an electoral field full of political madness and mudslinging, where anyone can say anything and also clutch at straws to try and have an edge over their opponents.

“If Chigumba had such a level of conflict of interest, for example, why was this not brought to the fore in Parliament which endorsed her appointment?

“And when Chigumba was on the bench and made many favourable rulings to the opposition why were the supposed sex scandals not brought up?

“The fact is that people must separate issues around Zec’s clumsiness and rigging with their personal dignities,” political analyst Maxwell Saungweme told the Daily News.

International Crisis Group senior consultant for southern Africa Piers Pigou also slammed the growing incidence of fake news regarding Zimbabwe’s polls — which he said was doing a disservice to ordinary people who were looking for respite from the July 30 elections.

“In a context of so much lying and disinformation, it is appropriate to avoid jumping to conclusions and believing any sensational copy at face value.

“Sadly, repeated lies and opinions have mutated into ‘facts’ on multiple issues. This is a major disservice to ordinary Zimbabweans,” Pigou said.

With just two weeks before the country goes to its polls, tension has been rising as the opposition and pro-democracy groups demand that Zec accedes to their key demands of availing the voters’ roll and also allow them to witness the printing of ballots.

Last week, Chamisa accused Zec of being “biased” and “incompetent” after the MDC Alliance raised some irregularities during the postal vote by police at Bulawayo’s Ross Camp.

Both opposition parties and rights groups have also warned authorities that the eagerly-anticipated harmonised elections were now at the risk of losing their credibility altogether, unless Zec acted on all the serious flaws that contesting parties have cited.

Comments (20)

Vote ED for president. Vote MDC Alliance for MPs. This is good for the country.

Dzvuke Muchaina - 17 July 2018

I can smell the dawn of new Zimbabwe and the wolves are trying to stop it but never ever shall you succeed

True Zimbo - 17 July 2018

Zanu needs to be shown the door and kicked right where the sun dont shine. Anyperson who votes for ED and is not a looter or beneficiary to the Zanu kleptocracy does not deserve a brain. This is the same man who propped and killed for Mugabe for 38yrs. In all the time he has spent in cabinet he has no single positive achievement to his name. There are plenty dead bodies and pregnacies though.

Galore - 17 July 2018

I think the police should only arrest opposition criminals who include Biti & Chamisa.No one is above the law,if the opposition chooses to violate electoral laws,must only b arrested.Does the law allow them to observe printing of the ballots,does it clearly require them to b provided with the detailed voter's roll,if not then criminals must b arrested;I don't think the law gives Chamisa &Biti the mandate to announce election results & interfere with private life of zec personnel.This election is not for Biti &Chamisa but for zimbabwe;the purpose of this election is not for or Chamisa to win the presidency;all must go according to what has bn agreed in parliament where mdc was part of the deciding quorum

addmore gudo - 17 July 2018

Arrest Chamisa & Biti before it is too late;they are not law unto themselves;this is zimbabwe not some Biti or Chamisa kingdom;they are mere individuals no rights to disturb our national processes

addmore gudo - 17 July 2018

It would benefit the uniformed electorate if the Presidential candidates spend more time telling us about how they are going to change Zimbabwe for the better. The Movement Of Democratic Change has finally morphed into The Movement of Delusional Complainers.

Order - 17 July 2018

Does the law allow Vote rigging and docility?

Zum - 17 July 2018

not sharing the same perspective with you or opinion doesnt make anyone insane....that why its a right to express yourself in a different manner with others even if you do it by voting for whoever you chose

taku - 17 July 2018

Instead of shouting from the terraces and playing to the galary ZEC and MDCA and other interested parties ought to sit down and hammer out a way forward on the impasse. Only Mugabe and company will enjoy this circus while Zimbabwe misses the golden opportunity to turn our country around. We risk skidding back and deeper into mud more serious and dangerous that will make Mugabe mess a bed of roses. The use of the H word to demonise women must be criminalised like the K ..f word. The former editor of the Sunday Mail enjoys unparralled freedom of speech but please spare the Lady Chigumba decency she deserves by respecting her private life. Khupe, Priscilla Misiharambwi,(another Priscilla!!) and for that matter any Woman who makes it is always savagely ravaged. Let us put our differences aside sit together and discuss frankly and come up with a compromise that will not take our persons, our parties, our egos but our country forward. ?Zimbabwe has never rested Ian Smith rule,the liberation war, a bit of life after independence, Sanctions, record breaking Hyperinflation, Gonomics which wiped out all savings and wealth, Mugabe's dictatorship, Massive emigration with family break downs and ostracisation of Zimbabwe by the international community. Please its about time we solve problems amicably we deserve better, we are tired of working for nothing, we are tired of living in the diaspora, we are tired of unemployment, we yearn for development. ZEC and MDCA and other parties think of the suffering population and make decisions that bring prosperity , hope and a life to the 15 million Zimbabweans. In God we trust.

Kambiri - 17 July 2018

Biti & Chamisa should exert their energies on telling Zimbabweans how they will better ZANU (PF) in ameliorating their lives instead of making reckless statements against ZEC. The former Editor of the Sunday Mail should not be allowed to get away with malicious allegations he has leveled against Judge Chigumba. He must respect her private life.

Chief Charumbira - 17 July 2018

This is all a result of the perception that gore rino pagedhi hapana munhu. Other than that I am yet to hear of a tangible plan the so-called oppostions have for Zim. I don`t care who leads Zim as long as he is good for Zimbabweans unlike chidhoma Robert. So far Garwe comes close but he has to recover all that was looted from Zim. How come that the so-called opposition are not putting forward this as the centre-piece of their campaigns ? Because they are the same students of Robert Mugabe. NO HOPE for ZIMBABWE.

Masamba Akareyo - Tanganda - 17 July 2018

Why the position is better placed to deliver 1. They do not have to spend three years explaining away Chigumba s rigging strategies 2. They are not tied down or duty bound to continue feeding Chiefs and others who have benefited from ZANU pf profligacy (eg Chiefs have already been promised more cars after the election in the unlikely event that ZANU s election scheme works 3. ZANU pf lacks an intelligent, credible strategists. 4. ZANU pf lost the masses when they opted to go it alone post the November 2017 leadership renewal ceremony as a result it lacks the peoples goodwill.

Diaspora Proxy Vote Strategy - 17 July 2018

This is our Zimbabwe, we can't let ZANU continue to mess our lives. Chamisa and Biti are coin a good job by making sure these criminals do not steal our voices this time around. Let's go out enmasse and for Chamisa

Jamels - 17 July 2018

Surprise surprise, this article has nothing to do with Chamisa, Biti or the opposition. This article has a journalist who has challenged Chigumba about an affair with one of the people involved with the elections! Of course it is a course for concern kana chirichokwadi, so Chigumba must to the honourable thing and resign or sue the whistle blower.

legosta - 18 July 2018

Clearly if the sexual allegations against Chigumba are true then she can not arbitrate in an election in which her Sweetheart is competing. I do not like Kudzanayi's past roles but, the truth is, this time he is right. He MUST publish the evidence, otherwise this election is compromised. That is a national issue. Infact, a national security issue.

Mavhu Mavhu - 18 July 2018


jojo vuka - 18 July 2018

Kudzanayi story is not about the person of Chigumba and her private life. It's about her position and role in society versus her private life. We saw this in Grace Mugabe and this led country into a coup. So, when questioning Chigumba's 'wayward ways', Kudzanayi is saying exactly what Jabulani Sibanda said about the 'bedroom coup'. If Chigumba has a relationship with either Mnangagwa or Chamisa; this can never leave her a credible ZEC Chairperson; period and lets not defend such dubious characters in our midst. Kudzanayi must reveal more. I still love you!

Save - 18 July 2018

Let Chigumba know that let her not be in a hurry to do the Elections We have suffered for over 30 years if by July 30 all is not proper to everyone to do free and fair elections we can postpone them untill all is ironed out.WE WANT AN ELECTION LIKE 1980...

Musadaro - 19 July 2018

those against the wind of change check your strength!!!!!! the wind of change is blowing and can not be stopped by your reckless talking!!!!

chris - 19 July 2018

those against the wind of change check your strength!!!!!! the wind of change is blowing and can not be stopped by your reckless talking!!!!

chris - 19 July 2018

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