HomeLocalFrom the Editor's Desk: Obsession with polls stifles development

From the Editor's Desk: Obsession with polls stifles development

There are many reasons why the hearts of the generality of Zimbabweans must have begun to thump. Zimbabweans fear the violence that always accompanies elections. The next election is not going to be any different considering the belligerent stance that the uniformed forces have taken regarding the result of that election.

The so-called generals have openly reiterated that they would not accept any result that does not perpetuate President Robert Mugabe’s rule. They have, strangely, labelled MDC leader and Prime Minister in the inclusive government a “national security threat” and declared that any national security threat can only be dealt with by the military.

It has also come to the nation’s attention that Zanu PF has resuscitated the national youth service first established by the late Border Gezi which was used to bludgeon political opponents into submission. Elsewhere in this issue we have established beyond any shadow of doubt the existence of these training camps.

Zanu PF, through its Youth Development minister Saviour Kasukuwere, has said these training camps are dissimilar to the Border Gezi variety but are instead national youth empowerment projects. But it has been established that the other parties to the inclusive government are now aware of the projects and they are not endorsed by the other members of the inclusive government. It has also been established that youths not belonging to Zanu PF have been fished out through a witch-hunt and thrown out of the training camps.

With this collusion between the generals and the political hawks to deploy military and paramilitary groups in the communal areas it is obvious the country is set to go through another gruelling and bloody election.

But in the past decade or so no election has been able to move our dear country forward. Each election has invariably been a step backwards in terms of bringing desired change to the lot of our people. There is not doubt that thousands have cumulatively perished in the electoral violence of the past decade.

But why the obsession with elections when they stifle rather than enhance democracy? Regular elections, in normal countries, are the cornerstone of democracy by its original definition of being a government of the people, for the people, by the people.

In Zimbabwe elections have always achieved the opposite result because they have invariably resulted in illegitimate governments ruling the country. Indeed there hasn’t been a single government that has come to power in this country in the new millennium without dispute.

Democracy is simple if followed according to its letter and spirit. Contestants put their cards on the table and people choose who among them best represents their interests. But that’s not what is happening in Zimbabwe. Contestants have not put their cards on the table except that one wishes to bring change of government while the other is resisting change. But that cannot be the platform on which our purported electoral democracy can be founded.

Zanu PF wants elections this year but it does not tell us how that is going to move the country forward. At the turn of the century it based its election campaign on the redistribution of land. This was an emotive issue that quickly gained support among lots of people but look where it has left us simply because it wasn’t done properly. Not only are our people starving as a result of under-utilisation and misuse of the land. Many so-called new farmers whom we were beginning to identify as signs of the success of the land reform programme are back in town crowding the job market.

Because we can no longer feed ourselves many of our kith and kin have flooded neighbouring countries where they are now living like paupers, their erstwhile pride transformed into shame.

The Zanu PF refrain this time is called indigenisation. The party hopes to win the coming elections on the basis of this. But the general public has seen through this ruse and now know for a fact that indigenisation is only meant to hoodwink them into a revolutionary fervour while only rewarding the few sharks that lead the party.

Zanu PF’s call for elections this year is driven by this desperate attempt to use indigenisation as its trump card before the people see though the deceit.
Already the uncalculated call for indigenisation has resulted in a huge capital flight. After the formation of the inclusive government some two years ago the country looked to be on the threshold of development. There was so much goodwill among the people and also among investors. But ultranationalist pronouncements on indigenisation have scared everyone away.

Jobs have not been created as factories have by and large remained closed. Investment in our mines has stagnated, if not regressed, in the past two years. The impact of these developments have been felt most acutely by the generality of our people.

Zanu PF is now aware that indigenisation will be a hard sale if elections are delayed much longer hence its feverish call for early elections when it is patently clear that an election this year is practically impossible. Even if it gets its way, the elections will not meet the minimum standards required by our neighbours in the Southern African Development Community (Sadc).

 

This means the country will be back to the stagnation of the past decade.

Zanu PF no longer has a credible ideology to sell to the people. It will depend on instilling fear in the hearts of the electorate. It will also depend on hate speech which is already being spewed in the public media by disgraced former Information minister Jonathan Moyo with impunity. But these two, fear and hatemongering, cannot continue to win an election for Zanu PF; the people’s thinking has evolved and they have formulated strategies to counter intimidation and disinformation.

Sadc is right; there shouldn’t be room for any other sham election in Zimbabwe. Only when all the basic tenets of electoral democracy — such as voter secrecy and freedom of choice and assembly — are re-established can we begin talk of a new election. Elections ought to be based on principles rather then on fanciful pronouncements of ultra-nationalism such as indigenisatio.

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