Our opposition must learn something from the Zimbabwean elections debacle.
The biggest lesson to learn is that Governments have the capacity to use legal means to rig elections. In the words of the Mail and Guardian the Zimbabwe elections were a study in “daylight robbery” and an example of how to steal an election while everyone is watching.
Thousands of people stood in orderly queues to cast their votes in Zimbabwe and all seemed normal. Far from it Millions were disenfranchised while many thousands dead people voted.
We almost had a repeat of the chicanery over the Eastern Province by elections. Patriotic Front lawyers almost managed to stampede and hoodwink the nation into believing that neither Dora Siliya nor Maxwell Mwale were qualified to stand in the forthcoming by elections.
Our very own Minister of Justice was in the fore front pontificating and quoting chapter and verse of the law why the two could not stand.
They conveniently omitted to mention that section 129(5) of the Electoral Act provides that and we quote “(5) No prosecution for an offence against this act shall be commenced after the lapse of one year from the date on which the offence is alleged to have been committed.”
In effect therefore the whole debate is null and void but more importantly not even the much discredited and politicized Anti Corruption Commission can attempt to bar the two from standing because they have no such power. We have been made to understand that there are attempts to arrest the two under section 35 of the Anti Corruption Act, but this will not stop the two candidates from filing their nominations.
Unless they conduct an illegal arrest and detention to physically stop them from filing their nominations, there is no law that stops them from filing.
The moral of the story is that the opposition must be on constant guard against the chicanery those in power will employ to consolidate their hold on power.
As clearly stated by PF Secretary General Wynter Kabimba, there is no morality in politics, therefore those in opposition must continue to be on their guard to ensure that loopholes are not created for elections to be stolen.
The opposition’s first lesson is to appreciate the unity of purpose which must transcend their political divides for the greater cause. They must be prepared to lose a little in order to achieve the greater goal.
The second lesson is not to put too much emphasis on the international community, the African Union in particular. Of all the African countries that have spoken on the elections only Botswana has been courageous enough to question the conduct of the polls which have seen more than 1million disenfranchised in a carefully plotted scheme that saw dead people included on the polls while millions others eligible voters in areas that were predominantly opposition were eliminated from the roll.
Many countries in the region were in a hurry to declare the elections free and fair and therefore went on to congratulate Robert Mugabe for the victory, which he attributed to the indigenization programme which involves dispossession of land from whites and forcible “nationalization” of business concerns.
But as damning evidence of rigging emerges it is clear that the election may have been peaceful but certainly far from being fair.
A spokesman for South African President Jacob Zuma who was among the first to congratulate President Mugabe tactfully denied that South Africa had given a seal of approval to Mugabe’s victory.
He was quoted as saying “We did not say that the Zimbabwean election was fair, we said it was free … we did not use ‘fair’ or ‘credible’,” argued Ebrahim Ebrahim, South African deputy minister for international relations.
And the Tanzanian foreign minister, Bernard Member, also said tactfully that the words used by the regional body were that the Zimbabwean elections were “free” but not necessarily “fair” but “we did not say the election was fair.”
Let the opposition learn from Zimbabwe.