Unfair and not Free even by Zimbabwe Standards
On Monday March 17, 2008, President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe issued a proclamation to allow police to enter polling stations during up coming elections to "assist illiterate people to vote". This is just one example of steps that are being taken by the ZANU/PF administration that will render the March 29, 2008 harmonized elections unfair and not free. As has happened in past contests, this will ensure ill gotten victory for the ruling party.
An ominous poll of the Zimbabwe electorate was published by the Mass Public Opinion on Wednesday, March 19, 2008. It showed that Morgan Tsvangirai is leading with 28%, followed by Mugabe with 20% and Makoni with 8%. Only ten days away from the election day, this might reflect the results on the 29th ( beware the ides of March). To prevent such an unprecedented eventuality, the ZANU/PF technocrats have established a sour climate that allows the following developments to occur:
1. The police refused the MDC permission to stage a star rally at the Zimbabwe Grounds in Highfield on March 23, 2008 on the pretext that ZANU/PF had booked the place for its own campaign for the dates of March 21 to March 24, 2008.
2. The Zimbabwe Election Commission (ZEC) has refused to disclose information on ballot papers to candidates and observers.
3. Several MDC candidates for different positions have disappeared mysteriously after filing nomination papers.
4. The CIO private eyes and the military personnel have been coerced to protect ZANU/PF strongholds from the Opposition by threatening headmen/women who tolerate MDC victories in their catchment areas.
5. Widespread violence by ZANU/PF Green Bombers(youth militia) is evident throughout the land. Just the other day, several MDC youths were harassed and beaten up simply because they refused to tear Mugabe's campaign poster. They had been ordered to do so as a basis to accuse them of unpatriotism.
6. There have been repeated threats from the military, prison and police brass that they will not support or salute sellouts and agents of the West before, during and after presidential elections. War veterans have vowed to cause chaos should the declared outcomes be other than those expected and desired by them.
7. The European Union in particular, and the West in general, have been barred from officially participating as observers during the elections.
8. This year, instead of teachers, soldiers and police will be present at polling stations to "assist illiterate people to vote".
9. During the year, soldiers, teachers, police and doctors have been requesting and even striking for better salaries and working conditions without any positive response. Now, all of a sudden, they are promised hefty raises. Plenty free food is being doled out. In all of this, ZANU/PF is the single and advantaged player.
10.Foreign reporters have been given unequivocal warning that they will be arrested if they try to sneak into the country. Additionally, there will be a severely limited number of media to cover this very historical event in the life of Zimbabweans.
An election whose results are known even way before the first vote is cast has to be highly suspect and, one in which outside observers are excluded cannot be anything but unfair and not free. The March 29, 2008 polls in Zimbabwe fall squarely into this category.
Mfanyana is retired Professor and administrator of the State University of New York(SUNY) System and former Resident Director of Syracuse University's Study Abroad Program in Zimbabwe.
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