2013 Polls far from being Fair and Free

I hadn’t Imagebeen to Zimbabwe, my beloved country, since 29th of May 2010 when I left for advanced studies in the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Such an opportunity only came on the 26th of November 2012 as a result of my annual leave which ends on Tuesday, 11 December 2012. I had wanted to stay longer and to meet as many people as practicable but being human, I realised that I wouldn’t be able to achieve all I had planned, especially given the limited time at my disposal and so, I returned to South Africa on the 5th of December 2012. It isn’t so much the visit that we should grapple with but my discoveries during my stay in various parts of the country namely Bikita, Harare, Honde Valley, and Kwekwe. I would like to posit that Zimbabweans, especially in the most remote parts of the country, are living in fear ahead of the 2013 polls. Because of this, only the most naïve amongst us would believe that Zimbabwe is going to have free, fair and credible polls next year.

Freedom of expression in Zimbabwe is protected by Section 20 (1) of the constitution and it means freedom to have/hold opinions and to receive and communicate or pass ideas and information without interference and also freedom from interference with a person’s correspondence. From a more analytical perspective, it can be argued that freedom of expression is one of the foundations of a democratic society, a basic condition for democratic progress and the development of every person. It is, as it were, the most precious of all the freedoms guaranteed by our constitution. In light of this illumination, I would like to exercise my freedom of expression by bringing to the fore the fact that the expected 2013 polls are far from being free and fair.

A free, fair and credible contest can tentatively be defined as one in which contestants start off from an equal position; have equal opportunities of exercising their efforts to win the contest; face identical environmental and other constraints; and, are accorded equitable benefits and resources to enable them to participate without undue hindrance, except that stemming from their calibre, stamina or some such other characteristic beyond the control of those who manage the contest. A contestant’s success or failure in the contest must, therefore, be a result of his own shortcomings rather than a result of the environmental conditions which pre-determine the outcome.

Events surrounding the harmonised elections of March 29, 2008 indicate beyond argument, the highest order of authoritarian rule in post-independent Zimbabwe. They are explicit signs of the dearth and/or lack of democracy in Zimbabwean politics. Robert Mugabe, as a result, has attained a somewhat personal ascendancy over the political system and Zimbabwe has succumbed, to a large extent, to personal rule. Zimbabwe now appears to be Mugabe’s private company. And this works against a free, fair and credible contest come 2013.

I spoke to ordinary Zimbabweans in the areas mentioned above and they all spoke with one accord that a ZANU PF victory in 2013 will bring back the difficulties of the last decade or worse. People are mainly worried about the possibility of a violent poll, because they know that ZANU PF is far from having a decisive victory in any future election despite their strong criticism of the ‘monster’ inclusive government.

My uncle’s family in East Bikita was victimised in 2008. My aunt was beaten by her neighbour while her husband lived in the bush fearing for his life. Their only crime was having children who have grown to become teachers. The Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) enjoys overwhelming support from teachers and being a teacher in Zimbabwe today is synonymous with being a member of the MDC!

I also went to South Bikita where my mother’s sisters live. There, I came across the concept of the ‘ZANU PF Book of Life’. Previously, meetings were held on the 3rd of every month but are now held on the 15th of every month. One is required to attend these meetings and failure to do so would mean that your name isn’t in the supposed book of life, and for this you would be punished. For the record, my aunt was once fined in 2008. She had to pay her fine in the form of chickens and mealie meal for the ZANU PF youth militia and oppressive machinery. I also heard about ZANU PF’s agricultural seeds that have become so important to the rural dwellers in Bikita. You cannot even trust your neighbour there because you don’t know who they work for. You just have to keep your mouth shut and enjoy what these opportunist politicians are offering.

At the present moment, I am glad to inform you that my brother and I (for I needed company during my travels!) requested for the names of the culprits and I have to name and shame them right here. In Negufe we have a Masuka who has made it difficult for our people to enjoy their constitutional and God-given rights. In Chiremwaremwa a certain Mukwena is believed to have made that part of Zimbabwe uninhabitable. Although I never went to Mt Darwin during this trip, my uncle’s son from Honde Valley works in that part of the country and he informed me that there are men there who are wearing woolen hats. The main reason for that is that they lost their ears to ZANU PF thugs in 2008. Their ears were cut off because of their support for the MDC. I believe these revelations signify just but a tip of the iceberg. This could be happening across the country hence the need to ensure both the security of the person and of the vote itself.

In Kwekwe I learnt more about the significance of the Midlands province in both economic and political terms. Politically, my uncle enlightened me that the province is neither ZANU PF nor MDC. It belongs to nobody and no social or political grouping can claim ownership over the province. It is a melting pot with people from various political, economic and social backgrounds. It was also in Kwekwe that I learnt that my father “was a big time politician” and that my uncle wasn’t surprised that I had chosen to be like my late father. However, my uncle said he wants me alive! In particular, he emphasised the need to support those who want to be supported and to vote for those who deserve to be voted for. In the vulgar, attend ZANU PF meetings when they want you to do so but remember they have no vision for the country so vote them out when the time comes.

Hope for a new Zimbabwe is not, however, completely lost. To all Zimbabweans I say do not lose heart because the dictator is going. This is largely because Mugabe has not only become godless as a result of the merciless onslaught of materialism, but has also become a real danger to society and himself. A God-relating, God-seeking, God-worshipping and God-conscious leadership is of inestimable value in the process of rapid and bewildering change and uncertainty.

Most important of all, let’s not forget that those who started the work are people of faith, of integrity, of perseverance-the difficulties they faced are legion, and one may think, insurmountable. But they persisted, ever faithful to the struggle for a free, just and democratic Zimbabwe always hoping that one day, a new Zimbabwe will be born; a new Zimbabwe in which the young will be educated, the sick will be treated, and the hungry-physically and spiritually-will be fed. I rest my case.  May God help Zimbabwe.

By Mutsa Murenje, Johannesburg, South Africa, December 2012.