EDITORIAL COMMENT: EU must stay out of Zim elections

Zimbabwe is inching towards the 2018 harmonised elections. President Mugabe last week warned cry babies in the opposition of a “grand defeat”.

While the President was confident of Zanu- PF’s victory, he still urged the party not to be complacent but get the structures ready. To do this, he said, it was important to stop internal squabbles and to work as a team.

Against this juggernaut we have a whimpering opposition chasing the mirage of a grand coalition which so far has been more visible in the imagination of the private and social media than on the ground. They can’t agree on a leader, they have very little in common besides a shared slogan, “Mugabe must go”.

But it’s common cause that in terms of crafting programmes and material delivery to the electorate, Zanu-PF is always miles ahead. It has no leadership headaches because it requires no coalition with anybody.

Although Zim-Asset is said to end in 2018, Zanu-PF will pitch its electoral message on Command Agriculture, a programme at the centre of Zim-Asset’s Food and Nutrition Cluster. Thanks to the good rains this cropping season, there are already credible forecasts of a bumper harvest this year.

That is extremely bad news for an opposition which has been critical of, if not openly hostile to, the entire land reform programme, lamenting the departure of its white financiers.

Already tobacco farmers are being rewarded for their labour. There are glitches in accessing cash because of liquidity challenges, but they have their IOUs. A number of them have, however, heeded calls to go mobile or electronic when they want to purchase goods.

These are temporary setbacks expected of a nation under debilitating sanctions, although it is convenient for the opposition which invited them to be in perpetual denial because they hope to make political capital out of these inconveniences to land reform beneficiaries.

A successful agricultural season has other advantages for the ruling party. Farmers want to thank Government for the inputs which made Command Agriculture the resounding success it is projected to be. You don’t easily change a winning team, especially one which wins against the headwinds of a vindictive West.

More important, a successful agricultural season strengthens Zanu-PF’s ever unassailable dominance in the rural areas. The opposition and civic society organisations have been fighting for years to weaken Zanu-PF using Western food donations in periods of drought and hunger. This has been one of the ways of trying to “separate the people from Zanu-PF” as Americans have repeatedly said. It is difficult to use food donations to alienate the affection of a beneficiary from his/her benefactor.

Which brings us to the nub. The Zimbabwe Electoral Support Network (ZESN) claims to be a network of 30 independent, non-partisan non-governmental organisations. It claims its mission is to ensure free and fair elections in the country. It requires no divination to tell where the European Union’s sympathies lie when it comes to the politics of Zimbabwe. Which is why it continues every year to renew its embargo on the country.

The question is: How does ZESN expect any sane Zimbabwean to believe it is independent and non-partisan? And what gives the EU the effrontery to involve itself in Zimbabwe’s electoral processes?

Perhaps the Government has been too nice with these meddlesome guys. Colonial Rhodesia died in 1980 and we are uprooting its remnants. The European Union should stop poking its long nose in our affairs through political aid. If interference in American elections is such a bad thing why do Americans and their European allies think it’s proper to meddle in ours?

This is undisguised racist arrogance and condescension towards Africans in general and Zimbabweans in particular. The Foreign Affairs Ministry should call their ambassadors to a closed door meeting and whisper something in their ears. Short of that, it is a pipedream to talk of free and fair elections in 2018.

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