Nick Mangwana View From The Diaspora
The biggest scandal in America right now is whether a third party interfered with their electoral system or not. Political heads are rolling, careers ending and there is also the proverbial gnashing of teeth in some unfortunate buccal cavities.
The reason this is a very important issue is that whichever country takes part in the electoral process of another extends its soft power tentacles into that country.
A country’s electoral process is not only sensitive but a fundamental element of that country and the hallmark of its democracy and sovereignty. Any country which cannot run that process is either failed or in its formative stage.
These things sound obvious enough for any mature political player to understand.
But it’s shocking that the Zimbabwe opposition parties under their umbrella body known as NERA are up in arms against the Government of Zimbabwe for providing the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) with funds to procure the Biometric Voters’ Registry (BVR) kits.
Their preference is that this should have been done by the UNDP. Because the Government has provided the funds for the procurement of the equipment, this is called “an assault on democracy”.
Has anyone ever heard such political claptrap? Why on earth would a country funding its constitutional commission to carry its legal mandate be considered an assault on democracy? So surrendering a constitutional role to foreign entities is the epitome of democracy? Are some of these guys serious?
To make matters worse they even want to go on the streets to demonstrate for this! Seriously? So they want to demonstrate against the Government for implementing S239 of the Constitution?
Doesn’t the Constitution through this section make it known who should register voters and be the custodian of those registers? This responsibility lies with ZEC. Not the EU nor UNDP. If a constitutional commission is to carry its mandates, it needs resources to do so.
So the Government is wrong to provide ZEC with the resources? Doesn’t the Electoral Act say ZEC is funded by moneys accruing to it via an Act of Parliament?
Wasn’t there a consensus between all political parties that Zimbabwe had to migrate to the Biometric Voters Register? Of course there was. And ZEC has been brilliant in engaging all these players.
There was $17 million needed for this equipment. The State funds its institutions via the Treasury and it duly obliged the needed funds for the procurement of the equipment.
Those who are paranoid enough to believe the science fiction of the “mutating ballot” asked in Parliament why this was done. They were given adequate explanations but now we hear they want to do some political grandstanding by demonstrating to force the Government to subvert the Constitution. God help us!
In Zimbabwe, ZEC is our sovereign independent commission founded by and on the Constitution. How someone would want to mobilise people on the streets to defy a Constitution which is less than four years old is beyond comprehension.
Honestly, who really are these people? What do they actually stand for? Power at any cost? Are they not even aware that our own Pan-Africanist institute, the African Union, has a directive that African nations should work towards self-financing elections?
Zimbabwe is doing just that and some think they should take to the streets. They want an election process controlled by a political geo-entity to assuage their paranoia. If this is not an affront to own sovereignty, then what is?
Every African nation should finance its own elections. For anyone to cry foul because a government has delivered on its mandate to fund a constitutional commission such as ZEC to deliver its mandate is preposterous.
If the Government of Zimbabwe had failed to mobilise those resources that would have been another story. The people crying foul are the very people that had the absurd notion of putting Zimbabwe under some kind of curatorship. What a load of nonsense.
Our voters’ registration has a very clear criterion of who qualifies and who does not. There is no ambiguity there. ZEC should be funded through the fiscus and fines and penalties as well as registration fees accumulating to it.
Any foreign funding from third parties must be cleared by the Government. That is the law. So for all intents and purpose the Government could have just rejected the funding from the EU and UNDP (regardless of fiscal space challenges).
Everyone wants our voters register to be clean and as perfect as possible. We want the elections to reflect the will of the people. But that’s aspirational.
Even the United Nations acknowledges that there can never be a perfect register. Even in the UK when someone dies, they don’t automatically come off the register. This means that the UK voter’s role has dead people, people that moved and in some cases even deported people.
There has to be an effort to remove dead people from the roll. But there is always a risk. So ZEC is right to continue to engage with stakeholders and tap from their wisdom and address their apprehensions. But it cannot and should not surrender its constitutional role to any geopolitical player including the UNDP.
Voters registration is one of the most expensive elements of an election process. It needs funding. There is no problem in seeking developmental support from such organisations as UNDP or the EU. But that does not mean that once you do that you have to surrender your sovereignty and go under some kind of curatorship of these organisations.
They are there to help and not to run. This is why Nikita Khrushchev said that, “The purpose of the United Nations should be to protect the essential sovereignty of nations, large and small”. This is exactly what everyone should be fighting for. Not the surrender of sovereignty to donor agencies.
To even think of going onto the streets to demonstrate because you want an international institution to take over the running of your processes on the basis of paranoia is ridiculous. The strange things are that the people saying this are same people that always pontificate and prance around like the paragons of constitutionalism.
Some of them were very much involved in the making of our constitution which established our own sovereign institutions like the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC). Why are they now at the forefront of undermining that same constitution and the institutions it founded and the principles upon which our sovereignty was established?
Zimbabwe is one of the few countries in Africa where citizenship and eligibility of someone to vote is quite clear and established. Where is this paranoia coming from really? At what cost to our Independence?
The weapon of choice of any geopolitical hegemony is money. Geopolitical powers do not exert influence over a nation using the Bible or maxim gun anymore. They use financial power. And we might be a $4 billion budget nation but we surely can raise $17 million for our Biometric Voter’s Registration (kits) and we have.
So what’s the problem? Fear of the shadows? You cannot expect any government worth of its salt to undermine its own legitimacy this way.
Countries like the United States do not allow any contributions from a foreigner to a candidate’s campaign. But you find some people want a foreign entity not only to finance our elections but to run them as well. Isn’t this a direct threat to our self-determination?
Our electoral processes and result should reflect our domestic polity’s will. Not any other external force. Not this notion that elections can only be pronounced free and fair when endorsed by the European Union.
Sovereignty is the authority of the State to govern over its territory. Those surreptitiously asking Zimbabwe to go under some sort of bastardised curatorship are asking it to surrender its sovereignty. That shouldn’t be done.
The new trend is for states to take back control over their territory. That is exactly what Brexit was about. This exactly is what the financing of the acquisition of BVR kits is all about.
Financial sovereignty is an imperative for political sovereignty. We might lack this financial sovereignty in a lot of ways, but if we gain it in this small patch of land, then it’s a good start. Inch by inch we will gain our strength for self-determination.
There is a lot of “fake news” being peddled quite destructively. But to add to it conspiratorial politics which has been omnipresent in Zimbabwean politics would produce a terribly paranoid nation. Sometimes things are just as they seem. There is no plot or sub-plot.
You lose an election because the people have rejected you, just not understood what you stand for (if anything at all) or you just faced a more organised opponent.
Equipment procured through State funding would not suddenly do some Sci-Fi stuff, which will end up with votes for the opposition mutating to the ruling party. Please people should not convert pub talk or old women’s tales into national political narratives.