Self exiled Professor Jonathan Moyo appeared on HardTalk on Thursday this week and said, among other things that President Emmerson Mnangagwa is afraid of elections.
Initially I dismissed this as cheap talk by a bitter defeated politician as put by Mnangagwa’s spokesperson George Charamba. But then after a discussion with someone it got me thinking, “What if the nutty Professor is right” after all Alick Macheso sang a song with the lyrics “vamwe vakaudzwa hondo nemurwere wepfungwa” (someone where warned of an impending war by a mental patient).
So I checked if His Excellency was “walking the talk” when it comes to elections and this is what I found out:
What Has Mnangagwa Has Done To Ensure A Free And Fair Election?
NOTHING. Mnangagwa’s Minister of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Ziyambi Ziyambi has retaliated that there is no need for electoral reforms. In an interview with VOA, Ziyambi said the laws were compliant with the guidelines of the African Union and the regional bloc Sadc and there is no need to change the legislation. He has gone on to suggest the alignment of the Citizenship Act (chapter 4:91), Immigration Act (Chapter 4:02), Official Secrets Act (Chapter11:09), Police Act (Chapter 11:10) and Public Order and Security Act ( Chapter11:17) to the Constitution of Zimbabwe.
While the alignment of POSA to the constitution is commendable as it has rendered public demonstrations and protests effectively illegal, it is surprising to note that Ziyambi has not listed the Electoral Act as an important piece of legislation to amend in line with his ministry’s 100 Day plan since it has everything to do with a free and fair election.
Parliamentary and legal watchdog, Veritas has said that the Electoral Act requires 68 amendments to bring it in line with the Constitution and international best practice. The last amendments were made by former President Robert Mugabe and these were done to smoothen the voter registration process, facilitate transfer of voters from one constituency to another, ban the use of the controversial voter registration slips by people not appearing on the voters’ roll to vote on polling day, as well as for every Zimbabwean to register afresh regardless of whether they were already registered under the old voters’ roll.
Veritas noted that there are provisions within the law governing elections in Zimbabwe, which infringe on the independence of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC). ZEC’s independence, which is guaranteed under Section 235 of the Constitution, is severely impaired by five provisions that effectively put it under the control of the Minister of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs.
Although the Constitution says ZEC is not supposed to be “subject to the direction or control of anyone”, the Electoral Act currently required the electoral body to get approval and instructions from the Minister of Justice on matters to do with election observers, the hiring and dismissal of staff, funding from other sources and all other electoral processes.
Thus talk of free and fair elections by Mnangagwa without addressing some of these concerns is nothing merely but “Pamuromo Chete” (talk only) as sang by Thomas Mapfumo.
Free The Airwaves
There was a bit of change during Operation Restore Legacy when The Herald and the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation (ZBC) aka Dead-BC, were covering other parties and not necessarily being a propaganda mouth piece. But lo and behold, that ceased faster than Jah Prayzah’s “Kutonga Kwaro” became boring after hearing it so many times.
George Charamba has however promised to deal with licenses for new TV stations, such that this whole fascination with Dead-BC will cease to matter, to ensure the playing field is level. Apart from the issue of the State owned Herald and ZBC there is also the issue of legislation such as the Official Secrets Act which I was happy VaZiyambi wants to deal with.
The Official Secrets Act as highlighted by Veritas:
…was enacted to prevent official secrets being disclosed to enemies or hostile organisations. It is far-reaching and imposes draconian penalties. For example, it makes it an offence for a person to whom any information has been entrusted in confidence to disclose the information to anyone without authority; the penalty for doing so is up to 20 years’ imprisonment. The Act violates freedom of expression, including media freedom. The Act needs to be revised extensively to bring it into line with the section 61 of Constitution.
While Government’s efforts to align the Official Secrets Act to the Constitution is commendable, I think it is not priority to ensure a free and fair poll. I was hoping Government will prioritise the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (AIPPA) and the Broadcasting Services Act which almost prevented some of yall from enjoying Kwese TV.
Stop “Bribing” Chiefs Please
The Commander In Chief of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces handed over vehicles during a Chief Interface in Gweru on Saturday. There have been claims by the opposition, mainly those in the MDC Alliance, that Chiefs are working with the military to intimidate voters ahead of crunch elections this year. Well how would one expect them to bite the hand that feeds them or one that gives them cool rides for that matter?
Traditional leaders are supposed to be non-partisan according to Chapter 15 section 281 (2) of the Constitution. The handing over of vehicles especially after claims by Finance Minister Patrick Chinamasa that Government had turned down the request for the said vehicles citing budget constraints has been interpreted by some as an act of bribery and vote buying ahead of the 2018 elections.
One Last Question
I will end this article with a question by former education minister David Coltart who asked this on Twitter:
If ZANUPF are so confident of victory and if the MDC Alliance is so clueless why does the ruining party still feel it necessary to bribe Chiefs, maintain its monopoly over ZBC, Herald, ZEC? If they are so electable just comply with the Constitution!
I hope I will get an answer to this. But think about it, “maybe Jonathan Moyo is right that Mnangagwa is afraid of elections”