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Re-confirming democracy, stable Statehood through general elections

Emmerson Mnangagwa
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Last week I, through an Extraordinary Government Gazette, proclaimed timelines for our General Elections, as required by our Constitution and the Electoral Act (Chapter 2:13). The proclamation set out August 23, 2023 as the day our nation goes for elections for purposes of electing a national President, Members of Parliament for the 210 seats in our National Assembly and councillors to run our municipalities.

By Emmerson Mnangagwa

Explicit timelines

I also set October 2, 2023 as the day for a Presidential run-off election, should that become necessary.

The Nomination Court will sit on June 21 to consider and accept candidates in these forthcoming Presidential, parliamentary and municipal elections.

In the same vein, I set August 3 as the day on which Provincial Assemblies of Chiefs shall meet to elect chiefs who will take up seats in the revered Council of Chiefs.

The road is, thus, now clear for our General Elections, which will be held in terms of the 2023 Delimitation Report, which I also caused to be gazetted much earlier, in compliance with the law.

Both our Constitution and the Electoral Act make our plebiscites predictable and transparent. Everything is in black and white; there is no room for ambushes, something which ensures our elections pan out predictably and evenly.

Voters’ roll inspection

Equally, our election management body, the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) last week opened the voters’ roll for inspection by the general public. This, again, is meant to ensure transparency, and to cure any mistakes or anomalies which might be on the roll. I am happy that many Zimbabweans went out to inspect the voters’ roll, and that any anomalies they might have been were drawn to ZEC’s attention for corrective action.

Inviting observers

At an appropriate time, Government will invite international observers to our elections, which must run transparently, strictly in terms of our laws, and in fulfilment of guidelines set out by the Southern African Development Community (SADC), our sub-regional body. Government will ensure those invited to observe our elections get their invitations in ample time to make that exercise meaningful.

Convergence on architecture for future elections

I am pleased that on the legislative front, there is now greater convergence among political parties on the legal and institutional architecture for future elections, including restoring the Delimitation Commission which we had before, and bringing back the Registrar-General’s Office on voter registration. All these proposed changes are for future elections, and will release ZEC to focus on its core business, namely, that of managing our elections.

A record without blemish

From 1985, when our nation conducted its first general elections as a newly independent State, until now, Zimbabwe has never defaulted on its election timetable. She has always gone to the polls when these fall due.

It is a proud record we must strive to uphold as a nation. I am happy that these pending elections are no exception.

Elections, organic outcome of national struggles

Lest the world forgets, the institution of the ballot emerged from, and was won through, our struggles as a people hankering for majority rule, for a non-racial democracy based on one person, one vote, and for complete Statehood untrammelled by foreign domination and direction.

Indeed, we had to take up arms for this wholesome state of affairs to be attained and realised.

To that end, we view our elections as an organic outcome from our liberation struggle, and as a key process for decolonising of our governance system in order to consolidate our sovereignty.

While we benchmark our elections against best practices in the world, we jealously claim and retain a strong sense of proprietorship over the democracy which we ourselves inaugurated in 1980, and which we have enjoyed since, alongside the plebiscitary rituals it periodically occasions.

We will never tire of reminding the world that our elections are a facet of our hard-won democracy, and, thus, an institution exclusively reserved for us as Zimbabweans to shape, to participate in and, in the final analysis, to enjoy and judge.

Any and all changes we seek legislatively; changes which we provide for institutionally; and which we claim through democratic praxis, are meant to make our democracy even more wholesome for our people, who are its sole litmus test.

Claiming the right to vote

Going forward, we must cultivate and ensure an environment in which Zimbabweans are able to vote without any sense of let or hindrance.

No barriers must be put in the way of our citizens in claiming and in exercising their right to vote in accordance with our laws.

To do so is tantamount to negating a core political goal of our national liberation struggle, namely, a guaranteed right to one person, one vote.

Nothing must be spared to ensure the environment is right and conducive for free, fair and peaceful elections in which the right to vote is available to all those eligible, in terms of our laws and laid-down procedures.

Secure ballot

Secondly, we must ensure that the ballot is secure; that every vote is counted and respected; and that the overall outcome expresses the will and choice of the sovereign people of Zimbabwe. This requires that the whole plebiscite attains levels of integrity which the people of Zimbabwe can vouch and attest to.

Above all, this requires that our whole electoral process is fool-proof and insulated against undue influence and manipulation by outsiders and foreigners.

No foreign power is a stakeholder in Zimbabwe’s electoral processes; this is why foreigners come in by invitation, and participate as observers, and not as monitors.

Elections for peace and stability

Third, our harmonised elections must underpin and advance peace and stability for our nation.

When I was in Sharm El-Sheikh recently for the Arrears Clearance and Debt Resolution, friends of Zimbabwe made an impassioned plea and call to us to cultivate peace as Zimbabweans, and to resist being instigated to violence by whomsoever: before, during and after elections.

Indeed, our country needs durable peace during and after the forthcoming harmonised elections.

The nexus between elections, on the one hand, and peace and stability, on the other, must be assured.

On my part and that of my Party, ZANU PF, peace remains the priceless goal towards whose attainment nothing should be spared.

I urge all other players in our electoral process to make the same pledge, and to be sworn to unconditional peace for our nation.

Firm hand against those bent on disturbing peace

Let me sternly warn those bent on political violence that a harsh response awaits them.

We consider political violence a challenge to the whole State, in which case all levers of the State: the Executive, the Legislature and the Judiciary must act in concert, and with a strong, unflinching sense of shared resolve and common purpose to stamp it out.

Those guilty of acts of political violence, or for inciting political violence, must be speedily put away so they do not become a menace to our society, and to its democratic processes.

If it means setting up special courts for the speedy trial of those accused of perpetrating or instigating political violence, so be it.

Magnanimous winners, good losers

Fourth and last, true democrats are magnanimous winners and good losers.

One cannot enter an electoral contest for just one outcome, namely, an outcome in which one is only a winner.

Surely, that is not the frame of mind helpful to a free and fair election; rather, it is one for war.

In any event, our rich democracy provides recourse — peaceful recourse — to anyone who might have reason to feel hard done by the whole electoral process.

We have the courts. That recourse must be pursued and exercised to the fullest. Once that has been done, and our courts have come to some determination, their judgment must be respected by all, winners and losers alike, so our whole society speedily resets for a peaceful conclusion, and moves forward. That is the Zimbabwe we want, and must work towards, namely, a country that quickly rallies back after any contest, to resume deep and encompassing routines for peace and development, all done in unity.

I say peace, peace and stability for our country!