The MDC and the mad season of position papers

by Elijah Chihota

Since losing the 2018 harmonised elections, the MDC has tried to remain afloat and maintain some form of relevance using various antics. First were the so called “thank you rallies” in 2018 to 2019. However, these did not help the party in anyway. They failed to pacify the party’s members who were grossly unhappy with the loss despite Chamisa’s confidence-building utopian promises. Then came the party’s season of deluge of position papers of what it intends to push ahead of the 2023 elections.

Last week on Thursday, 27 February 2020, MDC leader, Nelson Chamisa alongside his secretary for elections, Jacob Mafume launched the 20 Principles for Reliable, Inclusive and Credible Elections (PRICE) in Zimbabwe. The MDC leadership thinks that if the Electoral Act can be amended and aligned to the Constitution it would hand them electoral victory on a silver platter. This kind of mindset is very incorrect given that the electorate and not electoral legislation hands or denies politicians electoral victories.

What the MDC is doing now is nothing new. In 2015, the MDC adopted a position called “Without Reforms, No Elections (WRENE)”. During that time, the former MDC leader, the late Morgan Tsvangirai also proposed for the amendment of the country’s electoral laws, but surprisingly that party went on to participate in the 2018 elections without their demands being addressed. Therefore, the new demands by Chamisa are not new and will not stop the next election.

The question that the MDC should be asking itself before making any demands is; who should initiate the Electoral Act amendment? The answer is that it is the duty of legislators to start that process and the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) Chairperson, Justice Priscilla Chigumba will simply implement the resultant Act.

The MDC should be blaming itself for not amending these laws because its legislators are good at making noise in the National Assembly chambers instead of meaningfully contributing to the enactment of laws. It is on record that the MDC legislators are good at raising flimsy issues in Parliament such as defending the former First Lady, Grace Mugabe’s possession of over four farms while other deserving Zimbabweans remain landless. The immature MDC legislators waste valuable time in Parliament playing kindergarten kids games in the august house.

Although the MDC cited 20 issues as being at stake to usher in credible elections, it can be seen that the PRICE document is just a regurgitation of previously flagged issues which are immaterial to the holding of elections.

The MDC wants ZEC to be independent and have no direct interface from the President or Minister of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs. Despite teeming with lawyers, the party is failing to read the Constitution properly. Chapter 12 Section 238 subsection (1) (a) states that “a chairperson appointed by the President after consultation with the Judicial Service Commission...”. Therefore, there is no way ZEC could operate without interacting with the President or Minister under whose purview the Electoral Act falls.

The MDC further proposed the setting up of an all stakeholder logistics committee which would see the procurement of all election material. Taking this into mind, in actual fact it is the MDC which is interfering with the independence of ZEC. ZEC as the EMB is mandated to carry out all election related processes without involving those stakeholders that the MDC is suggesting.

The diaspora vote has always been the MDC’s point of contention. That party wants diasporans to be allowed to vote. Government’s position has always been clear that diasporans who wish to vote should travel home to register and to vote since it does not have the necessary resources to register diasporan voters and conduct elections abroad. The MDC should be urging its supporters abroad to come and vote at home until such a time that the country has the resources to allow, diasporans to vote in the areas of the residence.

Another aspect is that the MDC claims that the security and law enforcement agents are part and parcel of the country’s electoral process. They claim that the presence of police officers in polling stations intimidates voters. In actual fact, police officers will be maintaining order and peace and at no other time do they interfere with the actual voting process. As if that was not enough, the MDC accuse the military of having an overreach in electoral and civilian spaces as well as being part of the ZEC Secretariat. In Zimbabwe, there is no law which bars anyone with a previous military or security background from being employed by ZEC. The world over former military personnel is employed in all sectors even in election management bodies (EMBs) and Zimbabwe should be no exception simply because the MDC wishes so. In any case, the MDC has failed to identify any security sector member within the ZEC secretariat thereby reducing their claims to outright falsehoods.

Traditional leaders since time immemorial have been accused of playing a commissariat role for ZANU PF during election seasons. Traditional leaders have never campaigned for ZANU PF. Surprisingly; the MDC does not make any noise when the dethroned Chief Nhlanhlayamangwe Ndiweni was buttressing their positions in public fora.

The MDC is demanding to have access to public media from ZEC. Already the MDC enjoys positive coverage from the private media such as the Daily News and various online publications and already the public broadcaster recently alluded to working out the modalities of ensuring all political parties are given coverage and not only the MDC.

During the 2018 elections, President Emmerson Mnangagwa opened the democratic space which allowed the MDC to campaign anywhere in Zimbabwe, unlike the previous administration under which some parts of the country were no-go areas for the opposition. He also allowed the accreditation of election observers from the European Union (EU) and the Commonwealth as well as from hostile countries who last observed elections in 2000. The MDC conveniently omits to acknowledge these electoral milestones but is demanding the setting up of an EMB led panel to accredit election observers.

Another surprising demand by the MDC under the PRICE document is the compulsion of ZEC to produce its election report within six months after the polls which does not add any value to the electoral process. The demand does not alter the outcome of the election and puts unnecessary pressure on ZEC. The MDC should understand that within the six months post-poll, ZEC would be dealing with various electoral petitions therefore, a hurried report might not be accurate, hence the need to push it further.