By Kingstone Jambawo
Democracy should allow individuals periodic opportunities to freely communicate their preferences to their leaders through regularly scheduled elections. ZANU PF has used it’s confrontational strategies to silence critics and political opposition parties for as long as it has been in power. It has used the army, the Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP), the Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO) and turned the country’s vulnerable youths into the dreaded notorious Green Bomber militias to force the opposition out of electoral contests.
Whilst democracy is only possible through running a free and fair elections, what matters to the ZANU PF regime is the quantity or number of elections that are held in Zimbabwe but not the quality of those elections.
A violent militarised youth service should not take any part in any elections. The old politics of Political Slogans that vilify, deride and undermine the dignity of other people by old men to incite violence should not have a place in today’s politics.
A culture of electoral violence has been part of Zimbabwe electoral politics. ZANU PF has always been effective at suppressing descent by elimination within it’s party structures and through using the Green Bombers to attack opposition supporters.
It is well known that electoral violence has affected all the Zimbabwe elections since 1980 although the official birth of the Youth Service (Green Bombers) was in 2001.
The idea of a National Youth Service was first proposed in 1989, but it was only implemented in 2001 under the Ministry of Youth, Gender and Employment creation headed by the late ZANU PF commissar, Border Gezi. It is by no accident that it was implemented after the emergence of MDC as a major opposition party.
The Gezi training centres were soon to be scattered across the country under the guise that it was training youth life skills and discipline whereas they are ZANU PF indoctrination camps. They have since evolved into the dreaded Green Bombers militia training camps.
Violent elections have undermined the Zimbabwe democratisation process. It is time Zimbabwe wakes up to the fact that this regularity of elections has failed to translate into democracy.
The only probable hope for this depressed democracy is to pursue strategies that seek to dismantle this system and culture of electoral violence.
Tackling this violence causative agent may prove to be difficult as the effects of losing an election will have negative consequences for the ZANU PF elite. Losing power will mean losing their ill gotten wealth and the socio-economic benefits that comes with it. Winning an election has become a matter of survival for them.
ZANU has already started it’s violent campaign ahead of the 2018 elections. Apart from voter education and the implementation of electoral reforms, the only hope so far is for a protest vote against ZANU PF in 2018 which does not seem likely.
Most people are anxious about the upcoming intense campaign period where more violence is expected. Maybe now is the time that the opposition should seriously consider boycotting these elections than to go into an election that they know they have already lost.
Given this electoral violence history, I pose two questions: Does the opposition trust the Zimbabwe Electoral commission’s (ZEC) proposal of a reliable voting technology? and is there a guarantee that the elections will be free and fair, without violence ? If the answer to these two questions is no then the focus should be on demanding democracy. It is difficult to imagine an electoral process that will bring about non-conflictive transition of power in Zimbabwe.
The National Electoral Reform Agenda (NERA) can thwart this dictatorial control by boycotting this corrupt violent election and deny the regime legitimacy. This is the only way we can say no violent elections. No to the sickening promises and rallies that are filled with lies and hate speeches. The opposition should deny this regime legitimate power until mechanism of a free and fair election are in place.
NERA had declared it’s intentions of boycotting the elections. Outrageous as this may sound, this course of action is by far much better than to cooperate and participate in a fraudulent violent elections expecting ZANU to correct itself on it’s own terms.
It is more sensible and rational than to anticipate a court challenge after losing the elections . If they continue participating in this whoring of democracy they will find themselves in an continuous environment in which only the powerful ZANU PF machinery, Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) will churn out the rigged results in 2018 and in which people’s vote will have been stolen. The opposition should urge all Zimbabweans to boycott these elections of the wealthy corrupt ZANU PF elites and deny validating the corrupt system.
NERA political parties should urge their supporters for a powerful non-violent organised revolution. The causes are just and the people’s grievances are real. We should not for the sake of our county tolerate this utter corruption of democracy any longer.
The start of this 2018 electoral politics has undercut social movements by delivering too much energy to elections. As always, we are being asked, through violence, to elect the same old recycled thugs. There are many signs including the fact that the government did not enact any policy changes that were being advocated by the social movement activists.
A peaceful, NERA organised revolution is probably impossible in Zimbabwe because the brutal ZRP will see to that. An election boycott will trigger an election crisis.
An electoral process should be a means of achieving governance without violence but when it is unfair and corrupt the government’s legitimacy is compromised. When voters come to associate elections with predictable patterns of violence, their appetite and support for democracy eventually wanes.
Ignoring or accepting electoral or political violence may, in the end, undermine democracy to the point where the international community, rather than promoting democratic development is actually preventing it from taking root.
Kingstone Jambawo is a human rights activist based the United Kingdom. He writes in his personal capacity.