Demystifying the opposition's rigging narrative

Chigumbu Warikandwa

The election has come and gone. The opposition, whose house continues to burn unabated, has reclaimed the majority of the seats it needlessly created vacancies in, gobbling scarce national resources in the process. All the opposition fuss about rigging by the electoral body, the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) has proven to be nothing but hot air and bottled smoke.

If anything, the opposition has emerged as the declining party through its loss of two previously held constituencies to its usual nemesis, Zanu PF. Every politically literate person is thus asking himself what could be the opposition's reaction if it had lost all but the two constituencies. Every judge of the electoral court would have been awakened this morning by anonymous and unwanted calls asking him to come to work, and quickly.

But here is to Zanu PF's political maturity; no fuss, no tricks. Elections are designed to be won or to be lost. That’s the order of democracy. Every coveted opportunity is bound to attract many respondents interested in filling it. But such opportunities are finite, while aspirant office holders are infinite.

Political maturity is the ability to maintain dignity in victory and in loss. Losers create winners. A winner becomes a common leader, for both his supporters and opponents. These two camps are not enemies; they are stakeholders in the delivery of democracy.

And, the opposition was building various narratives of ZEC-aided rigging plots. In its wisdom, the electoral body chose to ignore the foolish conspiracies. Despite the aspersions targeting the integrity of the electoral body, the Commission delivered a flawless election this past weekend. And, obviously, no apologies are going to come from the quarrelsome opposition. If anything, the opposition is already cooking up new conspiracies for the 2023 harmonised elections. More theories would further be cooked for future elections, and as usual, no apologies would be forthcoming for peddling false narratives.

The usual mischief coming from the opposition at the eve of every election calls for introspection into the country's electoral laws. There ought to be some legislation that encourages responsible behaviour by political actors. Going back to 02 August 2018, one notices that the opposition's unfounded claims of rigging founded the disturbances that trailed the electoral processes.

With very deterrent laws that effectively punish such behaviour, the country's democratic record would not have suffered to the same extent it did. That very 2018 stain continues casting a very conspicuous presence on the country. A country with a dent on its democratic record loses much more than meets the eye.

A country with a contested democratic image tends to frighten away investment. No investor wants to be seen investing his business in a pariah state. Secondly, such investors fear being labelled as enablers of a despotic establishment.

Also, international development financiers are less likely to develop goodwill towards a country whose democracy development institutions have contested integrity. Whether or not such contestations are informed or not, that becomes a story for another day. What remains is, a controversial institution repels goodwill.

How does it help Zimbabweans to sow controversy surrounding their own institutions needlessly? Only a firm law can stop such unpatriotic behaviour.

The opposition has on record, been clamouring for electoral reforms. Let a law enforcing electoral discipline among contestants be part of the reforms the opposition yearns for. Whatever reform there is, such reform must reinforce electoral confidence in the electorate and other interested stakeholders. A free, fair and transparent election ought not to be one which the opposition alone wins. Every contestant has a right and chance to win any election so long the electorate finds him the best candidate. Every winner must be allowed to enjoy his victory undisturbed. Let nobody undermines the people’s democratic choice.