Home » Governance » Elections – When a Boycott Is Not of Any Importance [analysis]

ON the 23rd of May Professor Welshman wrote through Newzimbabwe.com and explained to us all why he believes non-participation in the upcoming by election is “important”, and I will take some time to interrogate some of the issues he raised in that piece.

Firstly, Professor Ncube tells readers that it took the July 31 2013 election for the MDC to “recognise the futility of participating in by elections before the full implementation of electoral reforms.”

What happened on July 31 is that the MDC, led by Professor Ncube, failed to secure any single parliamentary seat via the direct vote, only securing 2 seats apiece for the House of Assembly and the Senate through proportional representation. When the same party garnered 10 seats via direct voting in 2008 there was no recognition of the “futility of participation”. That is problem number one.

Rather we saw a keenness by Professor Ncube to endorse that result quickly as his party stood a good chance of making it into government with only ten seats, quite a historic feat in the politics of Zimbabwe, thanks to the Mbeki-led misnamed Global Political Agreement-a strange creature that was made up of the tripartite mating between Zanu PF, MDC-T and Ncube’s MDC, then led by Arthur Mutambara.

The question to be raised is, if Zanu PF, with all its incumbency aantages had 99 seats while Ncube’s party had 10 in 2008, and that was fine with Ncube and his colleagues, why must it be amiss that the same Zanu PF had 197 seats in 2013 while Ncube’s MDC had two? Surely there were no reforms in 2008, just like there weren’t any in 2013, and it is hard to believe that electoral reforms alone could close that gap.

Indeed the new Constitution contains clauses on electoral reforms, and it is also true that an agreed electoral Act was enacted before the 2013 election.

What is also true is that the GPA Inclusive government had overstayed its constitutional mandate by the time the July 2013 elections were held. The same law that Professor Ncube upholds for enacting an electoral Act is the same law that gave the legislature that was elected in 2008 a maximum of five years in office.

Professor Ncube, at the time, argued for an extension of that term first to September 2013, later suggesting December, and then he aocated for an indefinite extension “until electoral reforms are in place.” Some dismissed him as motivated by the need to extend his stay in government “luxuries”.

Like Professor Ncube correctly writes, the matter ended up at the Supreme Court, and from the viewpoint of the law, the court cleared the way for elections to be held while reforms were to be implemented on an ongoing basis.

While it is politically expedient for Professor Ncube to say Zanu PF “frog marched” the country” to “premature elections,” the legally correct position is that Zanu PF had the legal authority to proceed with that election, and in that context the phrase “frog marched” might not be exactly the right term to be used by someone who is a professor of law. And to suggest that the Supreme Court “connived” with Zanu PF is quite reckless, especially coming from a respected legal practitioner.

Professor Ncube and his colleagues from the other MDC formation dragged Zanu PF to SADC in Mozambique, just like Jealousy Mawarire dragged President Robert Mugabe, Morgan Tsvangirai, Arthur Mutambara and Ncube to the Supreme Court in regards to holding of election in 2013. I have no idea what Mawarire’s motivations were, except to say post-event, it appears the man was simply seeking attention, or maybe gambling with his luck in regards to anticipated political benefits.

SADC basically resolved that it could only hope for a month’s extension if the Zimbabwe Supreme Court could see that fit, and essentially agreed with Zanu PF that whatever the court would determine, the regional bloc would respect.

These developments speak otherwise to the allegation of frog marching of the country into an election by Zanu PF.

I would agree if ZANU-PF had disregarded a SADC resolution, or the ruling of the Supreme Court. But that was surely not the case.

Professor Ncube says the 2013 election result was “fiercely contested,” so much that his co-leader in the MDC, Paul Temba Nyathi had this to say after the election result:

“I got a feeling that Gwanda North [my constituency] was unwinnable. People who used to come to our rallies and support us suddenly could not look me in the eye.

They started vacillating. We had a free and fair contest, everyone was free to canvass and the vote was peaceful in Gwanda North. Hand on heart, I think Zanu PF beat us fair and square. There is something that made people to fall in love with Zanu PF again.”

It is hard to say the election result was fiercely contested when someone like Samuel Sipepa Nkomo, then a senior leader in the Tsvangirai led MDC had this to say:

“We have failed to admit that we did not live up to expectations. For me, I would say that rigging would only be 10 percent of the problem and 90% was our fault.”

How does Professor Ncube wish to explain Biti’s theory around that election result? Speaking at a forum of intellectuals in Harare soon after the election, Tendai Biti had this to say:

“We were selling hopes and dreams when Zanu PF was selling practical realities. ‘We (Zanu PF) are going to give you farms,” its there. ‘We are going to give you $5000 through Kasukuwere’s ministry.”

He added, “I think we didn’t do well in 2013. A message is a slogan, its mascara and it’s a makeup. What is the substance?”

In the context of the opposition leadership falling over each other to say such things, it can hardly be true that the election result was “fiercely contested.”

If Professor Ncube expects his readers to read a fierce contest of the election result from his exciting narration of unnamed woman whom he claims sold a goat to raise travel fare to come and tell him that she had voted at some polling station, and she could not understand where her vote had disappeared to since the election result on the polling stations’ notice board did not seem to factor in her contribution to the vote, then he must be taking his readers for simpletons.

The unexplained absence of one vote from a single polling station is too weak a piece of evidence to discredit a national election result, even if a whole goat was sold and slaughtered to prove the point.

Indeed whoever told Professor Ncube “non-participation is a betrayal of the very spirit of democracy that we cherish” had very wise aice, and should have been taken seriously.

As Professor Ncube rightly asserts, “on paper Zimbabwe is a constitutional democracy.” That is it. We have a Constitution that passes for a democratic one, and boycotting elections is a betrayal of that Constitution, especially one Professor Ncube and his colleagues at one time vociferously defended when some of us questioned its merits.

If the “desire to bring attention to and put pressure for full and unconditional implementation of electoral reforms” were to make sense, then Professor Ncube would know better than boycotting by-elections caused specifically by the splintering of the opposition. The only attention the boycotting has achieved so far is further infighting in opposition circles, and for Ncube’s party, at least a platform to say something in the wake of dramatically waning fortunes. There is not much of his party left to talk about.

Voter registration, location and management of polling stations printing, distribution, allocation and security of ballot papers are all important aspects of a democratic election.

If the truth were to be told, these processes, perhaps except for voter registration, were observed and assessed by both the SADC and the AU, and rightly or wrongly, essentially they were endorsed as passes, and the same goes for the integrity of the ballot.

Professor Ncube needs to think of something better than non-participation if he is going to achieve the goal of pressuring for “unconditional implementation of electoral reforms.” The current decision is quite unimportant to be frank, and if Ncube wants a description for it, then trivial could be the right word for it all.

As Professor Ncube asserts, in politics perception, attitude and context are very important.

The general perception right now is that his party is slowly dying, and the attitude of the voter is that hope has been lost, and the factual context is that his party does not occupy much political space in parliament and senate.

Does one really make a good intention of pressuring such a stubborn party like Zanu PF by announcing a boycott at a time MDC senior members are doing an exodus bigger than that of Moses and the Israelites?

What is the perception now with all these TsvangiraiKhupe stories doing the rounds? And what about the Mangoma scandals in the other MDC outfit? What political context is the opposition creating? How does one turn around and think electoral reforms on their own can change the Zimbabwe political landscape when the context of it all is so messed up, not by Zanu PF, but by the opposition itself?

If Zanu PF made it difficult for the opposition when they were partners in government how does it make sense when we are told a boycott of by-elections or any other election could tame the revolutionary outfit?

Professor Ncube says his party, or what remains of it, is sending a message “that there should be change.” Fair enough. But who in Zanu PF does Professor Ncube think is listening to that message?

I do not think it is fair to let Professor Ncube continue to believe that what him and his party are doing is an important thing in Zimbabwean politics. The non-participation is neither strategic nor important at this point in time.

Zanu PF is not convinced and will not be convinced that there is something the matter with its commitment to Section 67 of the constitution, because to Zanu PF eligibility of voters is not a problem in Zimbabwe, and frankly speaking it is not.

Neither would Zanu PF give a hoot about Professor Ncube’s worries over Section 238 of the Constitution.

The old party will maintain that the right to vote is well safeguarded in Zimbabwe, adding that they fought for and won it in the seventies, and surely there will be many takers to that assertion.

Zimbabwe we are one and together we will overcome! Its homeland or death!!

REASON WAFAWAROVA is a political writer based in SYDNEY, Australia

Source : New Zimbabwe