Brutal pointers to more Zimbabwe electoral catastrophe


Citizens Coalition for Change rally

from MARCUS MUSHONGA in Harare, Zimbabwe
Zimbabwe Bureau
HARARE, (CAJ News) THE Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front’s (ZANU-PF’s) brutal response to every threat to its stranglehold on power is a decades-long trait that has not only paralysed the Southern African country.

This intransigency has since the turn of the millennium disintegrated the nation into an island of conflict in a sea of stability.

Zimbabwe has for the better part of the past two decades emerged a hotspot of instability in a region for long boasting the status of a beacon of peace in a troubled continent.

If ZANU-PF’s response to its latest challenge, the newly-formed Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) of Nelson Chamisa, is anything to go by, Zimbabwe is lurching into yet another violent and disputable poll.

The region must brace itself for more trouble from its intermittent problem child (neighbour).

This could emerge a king-size headache to the Southern African Development Community (SADC) bloc that is losing its lustre as the most stable sub-region in the continent.

This as Mozambique battles an Islamist insurgency and Eswatini is experiencing anti-government protests that have turned fatal.

Emerging from its deadliest unrest since the end of apartheid itself, South Africa could again bore the brunt as has been in previous crises when it mediated between the warring parties and struggled an influx of Zimbabwean migrants over the past two decades

Chamisa is President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s nemesis.

Zimbabwe is set to hold general elections next year. Polls are already tipped to be another two-horse race between the pair whose relations remain strained since the last poll.

SADC frets each time Zimbabwe and elections are mentioned in the same breath.

There were high hopes this would be a thing of the past when longtime president, Robert Mugabe, who ran both ZANU-PF and Zimbabwe with an iron fist was forced to resign in 2017, after 37 years as head of state.

Emmerson Mnangagwa, an ally of the military that masterminded Mugabe’s exit, succeeded the veteran with a pledge to uphold human rights but no sooner than he was elected a year later than the military opened fire on opposition supporters, killing six people.

Recurrent accusations by the ruling party that the opposition are stooges of Western nations, internet blocking, arrests and assaults of opposition supporters have prevailed in recent weeks.

Scenes of the past weekend when Chamisa held his first rally at the helm of CCC were reminiscent of that viciousness of that era, as well as of previous episodes during the Mugabe’s tenure, whereby the state machinery is unleashed on the opposition.

The rally was held in preparation for the March 26 by-elections.

Since formation in January, the CCC has incurred the wrath of state security.

It is akin to committing a crime to wear yellow, the colour adopted by Chamisa since he pulled out of the confusion around the name of the longtime opposition Movement of Democratic Change (MDC).

MDC splinters have been fighting over the name after its incessant splits since formation in 1999.

Scores of CCC supporters have been arrested in recent weeks allegedly for wearing yellow.

Police accused them of “blocking pavements” and “disturbing the flow of human traffic” in the capital, Harare.

Similar reports have emerged across the country.

Such violations increased on the eve of CCC’s first rally last Sunday.

Police were captured assaulting party supporters in custody.

CCC received police clearance to host its rally at Zimbabwe Grounds in Highfield, Harare, under stringent conditions.

The party was barred from “bussing” supporters, toyi toying (picketing) and convoying of vehicles.

Police mounted roadblocks on roads leading to the historic venue but that did not deter supporters from turning the grounds into a sea of yellow.

Ibbo Mandaza, a political commentator, said tens of thousands that attended defied the “shameful” conduct by the state to frustrate the rally.

“It’s beyond optics,” he stated.

“Mnangagwa’s regime hangs on a thread, and the deep state is taking note,” Mandaza said.

The young and elderly, some on walking sticks, braved the harassment to listen to Chamisa’s address.

“I want change,” said a woman who was quoted as saying she was 87.

In a post on social media, a group aligned to ZANU-PF mocked, “It’s unfortunate that Gogo did not see the following political parties she supported in office:”

The so-called ZANU-PF Patriots went on to mention the MDC led by Morgan Tsvangirai (now late) and Chamisa.

“Today she wears yellow, supporting CCC and history will repeat itself,” the organisation lampooned.

With the state-owned Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation (ZBC) maintaining a blackout on the opposition, the public relied on live updates via social media but the network was restricted.

Netblocks, which maps internet freedom in real time, confirmed “a significant slowing of internet service.”

“Metrics indicate that internet service is degraded for many users in Zimbabwe. The incident is likely to limit live streaming and access to online content as YellowSunday opposition rallies are held at Highfields, Harare,” it stated.

But that did not deter some on social media.

“I never got to vote for Morgan Tsvangirai. I was too young. I’m glad I will get the opportunity to vote for Chamisa,” Shamiso Anita pre-emptied.

However, some youth’s aspirations to vote are dim as the Registrar General struggles to issue new identity cards, allegedly as a vote rigging ploy, to prevent youth registering.

Opposition supporters are predominantly youth.

Chamisa reiterated the alleged ploy while addressing thousands that attended his rally.

Aaron Nhepera, Home Affairs secretary, recently blamed the bottlenecks on “challenges with consumables.”

This after a Lithunia-based company secured a tender to produce IDs and passports.

On a related issue, the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) has come under criticism for the shambolic voters roll said to be stuffed with thousands of so-called ghost voters.

Jane Chigidji, ZEC Acting Chief Elections Officer, rebutted alleged vote rigging allegations as “false” and “misleading.”

ZEC was at the centre of a storm in the last election in 2018, when Mnangagwa was announced the winner with 51,44 percent of the vote to Chamisa’s 45,07 percent.

The outcome ended up in the courts, which eventually endorsed Mnangagwa’s election.

“Triple C is the next government in Zimbabwe,” Chamisa declared at Zimbabwe Grounds.

“We will never allow an election that is rigged. Never again is an election going to be rigged. Never again is 2018 going to be repeated.”

At Marondera, some 70 km east of Harare, ZANU-PF held its rally leading to by-elections, Vice President Constantino Chiwenga, warned Zimbabweans against “selling this country to former colonial masters.”

This is an allusion to the opposition, blamed since the Mugabe era of being appendages of the West seeking to effect regime change.

Chiwenga was the armed forces chief when Mugabe was toppled.

“What is this kind of opposition leadership which encourages the suffering of people for them to vote for them?” he quipped.

“The opposition is being run by foreigners with the intention of destroying this country,” Chiwenga accused, days before the European Union (EU) removed from its sanctions list.

Others removed are Grace Mugabe, the former First Lady, and current army head, Valerio Sibanda.

Zimbabwe has a reputation for violent elections.

The outcome of the first poll that ushered in independence culminated in the deaths of an estimated 20 000 people south of the country after Mugabe deployed the military to quell dissidency.

In 2008 poll, which saw Mugabe lose his first election ever, to Tsvangirai.

The allegedly rigged outcome prompted a runoff but Tsvangirai pulled out citing violence against his supporters.

Mugabe won the election unopposed but the outcome was widely rejected. The resultant political and economic disasters led to a surge of Zimbabweans into South Africa.

Then-South African president, Thabo Mbeki, mediated talks that led to the formation of an inclusive government.

An attempt by current South Africa president, Cyril Ramaphoa, to intervene in Zimbabwe in 2020, amid recurring human rights crises, ruffled diplomatic feathers.

– CAJ News

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