President Emmerson Mnangagwa must implement the reforms necessary to have free, fair and credible elections because he needs the elections more than the Movement for Democratic Change, Mabvuku-Tafara legislator James Maridadi said.
He said the government needs the participation of the MDC-T in the coming elections more than the MDC needs the participation of the government because Mnangagwa needs legitimacy.
“If the president of the MDC-T refuses to participate in this election, this election will be a farce and the international community will not recognise it,” Maridadi told Parliament.
“The President of this country has two problems. He has the problem of legitimacy and acceptability. If he does not run this election in a free, fair and transparent manner, he will still suffer the problem of lack of legitimacy,” he said.
Some of the things that should be addressed are the repealing of legislation like the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (AIPPA) and the Public Order and Security Act ( POSA), as well as equal access to the state media like the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation and Zimpapers.
“These issues must be attended to if the President of this country must get legitimacy but in any case, come elections in 2018, the President of this country will not need legitimacy because there will be a new pair of hands running the country.”
Below is his full contribution
HON. MARIDADI: Thank you Madam Speaker for this opportunity to add my voice to this very important debate for this country. Madam Speaker, allow me to introduce my debate by saying that an election is simply a process that enables the citizen to participate in the political architecture of their nation. By extension when people get into an election they basically saying this how we want to be governed, they are basically talking about the relationship that exists between the elites and those that are afflicted and underprivileged.
Elections are by nature very expensive. When Zimbabwe goes into this election, the main political parties in this country, those that are represented in this Parliament, ZANU PF and MDC-T, the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission will need no less than half a billion dollars to get into this election. Half a billion is money which we as Zimbabwe do not have. We have a budget of below three billion dollars and half a billion dollars for elections is money which we do not have.
I will tell you what I am trying to drive to; elections in Africa and in Zimbabwe in particular are a declaration of war between the contesting parties. We have seen this happening in this country. That is why year in, year out when we talk about elections we talk about violence. There is somebody who told us Africans that elections are equivalent to democracy, they are not. In Zimbabwe Madam Speaker ever since 2013 we have had more elections in this country than the United States has had ever since 1960, but can you tell me that there is more democracy in Zimbabwe than there is in the United States, I do not think so.
Madam Speaker, why I say elections seem to be a declaration of war in this jurisdiction, I will tell you about a recent development. A former Member of Parliament who has not left Parliament Ambrose Mutinhiri forms a new political party. If we then go to State media, they have been bashing Ambrose Mutinhiri as if he has committed a crime but what he has simply done is exercise his right to associate with a political party of his choice. He has done nothing absolutely wrong but if you look at the State Media, they have gone all out to say things about him. They have gone out to talk about his role in the liberation struggle that when Commander Nikita Mangena died, he was not there and they have said a lot of things that he is beholden to former President Mugabe, as if it is a crime to be beholden to former President Mugabe; it is not a crime. If Ambrose Mutinhiri wants to join any party, he is able to join any party of his choice because it is his constitutional right to do that. I might not agree with him because for me, I would have preferred for him to come and join the MDC-T, but it is still his constitutional right to join any party of his choice.
Madam Speaker, why is it that Zimbabwe is perennially in an election mode. Perennially, Zimbabwe is electioneering. I remember after the 2013 elections, former President Mugabe went to address some gathering. The first thing he spoke about was not the economy or social welfare. He spoke about the need to win the next elections, 2018 elections. That was soon after the election of 2013 when he started talking about winning the election in 2018. Why is it that as a country, we are constantly, perennially talking about electioneering? I can guarantee you that after the 2018 elections, two months after that election, people will be talking about the 2023 elections as if there is nothing to talk about. The economy is in shambles yet we are going to get into the election.
We were talking to ZEC this morning. ZEC have submitted a bid to the Ministry of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs. They want $148 million. The Ministry of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs has spoken to Treasury and Treasury can only spare $95 million. Madam Speaker, if $95 million were to be put into social services of this country, it would transform the lives of millions of people, but we are going into an election and putting $95 million which we do not have.
I will leave that aside, but we must get into an election because people need to elect people to govern them, people that they want. The Constitution says we must go into an election. We must not get into an election as a ritual. This election must be able to produce an outcome that people respect, but the problem we have in Zimbabwe is we are getting into an election as a ritual that must happen every five years.
Madam Speaker, the Constitution talks about a number of things. It talks about the need for everyone to participate in an election. Whenever the President, whenever the Minister of Finance and Economic Development is talking about money coming to Zimbabwe, revenue streams, he talks about the diaspora. That we are going to have so much money coming from the diaspora, this year we expect to have so much money coming from the diaspora, but Madam Speaker, the diaspora is not participating in the suffrage. What we need is their money, but we do not need their vote.
Before independence, Madam Speaker, this is how the architecture of this country was. People only participated in elections if they had a certain level of education, I think then it was JC, which is form two or in lieu of education, they must have had some property or some money because the argument was that when you are voting, you are voting to protect something. People in the diaspora must be allowed to vote. If they are going to remit $1 billion into this country in a financial year, they must be able to vote because they are protecting the money that they are bringing into this country. We cannot say we want the diaspora money and yet we do not allow them to vote. It is a travesty of justice and that must be looked at and it must be enshrined in this Constitution that people in the diaspora must vote and just as much as we want their money, we must also want their vote. There is this fear of the unknown by the status quo that people in the diaspora will vote for the MDC-T. I do not know where this came from that people in the diaspora will vote for the opposition – [AN HON. MEMBER: No one is saying that.] – and if no one says that, then people in the diaspora must be allowed to vote.
Now let me go on to another issue. When we were talking to ZEC they said Treasury had promised them $95 million and the other money was going to come from traditional partners and funders. One of the traditional funders they were talking about is UNDP. We are going to run an election and we call ourselves a sovereign State and yet in that election, we are saying the UNDP must give us money to run that election.
HON. MATANGIRA: On a point of order, Madam Speaker.
THE TEMPORARY SPEAKER: Can you please approach the Chair.
HON. MARIDADI: Let him expose himself if he wants to do so.
THE TEMPORARY SPEAKER: Hon. Maridadi, you may continue.
HON. MARIDADI: Thank you Madam Speaker for that commercial break. I was talking about $95 million which ZEC has been promised by Treasury because they need $148 million and $95 million has been promised by Treasury and the remainder, they said, is going to come from traditional partners, traditional funders like UNDP and I was saying, we are a sovereign State. When we get to electioneering, we need to be funded by Europe and the United States of America. That must be really looked at.
Madam Speaker, I want to go and talk about media. This election must be free, fair and credible. There are things in this country which will show that the election is free and fair – the media coverage. Madam Speaker, what should essentially happen is that when president of party A gets five minutes on television addressing a rally, president of party B must also be able to get five minutes addressing their rally. I am talking of this in relation to a rally that was held by President of the Opposition, Advocate Chamisa seated here. He addressed a rally in Chinhoyi for two hours. I have been watching ZBC ever since Saturday and I have not seen a one minute clip of Adv. Chamisa addressing that rally. He is President of the biggest opposition party in this country which is represented in this Parliament and yet he does not get coverage on ZBC of which I think is not fair.
Madam Speaker, when we go into elections, it must be such that ZTV must be accessible to all political parties, be it the National Patriotic Front that has just been formed by former President Mugabe, be it whatever party, but most importantly, the two main political parties in this country which are represented in the Parliament which is ZANU-PF and MDC-T must get equal coverage on ZBC. Madam Speaker, what you then see on television is that an opposition leader will address a rally for one hour and there is something that they say, it is taken out of context. That 40 seconds is basically put on television and it is repeated to create in the minds of the viewers that look at the opposition leader that you want to vote for. Things are taken out of context and that is what is put on television. Things that the opposition leader says at a rally that build the nation, they are not given coverage. Madam Speaker, I think that is one thing that this Electoral Amendment Bill must be able to look at.
We are also looking at registration of journalists. Journalists, Madam Speaker, who are plying their trade in this country are accredited by ZMC, but when it comes to elections, they are told that they must also then go and accredit with ZEC. Madam Speaker, when they accredit with ZEC, they are charged a fee. When they are accredited with ZMC they are charged a fee, but there is another dimension to that. Those journalists that were covering BVR, the process of registering to vote, were accredited by ZEC and they paid a fee. They are told that for them to be able to cover the election, they must come and reaccredit and again pay a fee. I think, Madam Speaker, if you look at the economy in this country, especially those that are operating as free lance journalists, they are not able to raise that kind of money to pay accreditation fees all the time. My proposal is that, as long as a journalist is accredited by ZMC, they must be able to cover the elections for as long as they are able to produce a card that was given by ZMC because it is ZMC which accredits journalists and not ZEC.
Madam Speaker, when it comes to foreign observers, Government must have nothing to do with the issue of people that are coming to observe elections. It must be the preserve of ZEC. ZEC must be able to say who is coming to Zimbabwe, when are they coming to Zimbabwe and the processes and procedure that they must follow for them to cover that election. That must not be done by Government because Government is run by a political party and that political party is interested in this election. It must be done by ZEC, assuming that ZEC is independent.
I also want to talk about the role of the security agents when it comes to electioneering. Police officers must be able to vote. Those that are going to be deployed to help ZEC with elections must be able to vote at a polling station of their choice.
Voter registration agents pay a registration fee of $5. In my Constituency, Mabvuku-Tafara, I will have 68 polling agents. Each of these polling agents must be able to raise $5. We are coming from communities where people are not employed. We are in a country which has more than 90% unemployment and most of these polling agents are not employed and they are not able to raise this amount. This means that the burden to raise this money falls on the shoulders of the candidate. I think this is a lot of money. Why are election registration agents paying $5 when this should be done for free?
The other issue I wish to raise about elections is the issue of registration slips. We have a problem in our communities and I do not know if other Hon. Members are experiencing that especially those that are in Harare. I can talk about Harare because that is what I know. We have a group of people that are moving door to door demanding registration slips. I am told it is happening everywhere. Their names, identity numbers and their house numbers are taken down. That in itself is intimidation. I do not know who is behind this but I know it is happening in Mabvuku. Last week I was called by members in my Constituency when a group of young men was walking around collecting these voter registration slips. I confronted them and asked why they were collecting these voter registration slips and they threatened to beat me up. I told them that if they try to get violent with me, I would beat them so hard that they would give up their Zimbabwean citizenship. How many people are endowed with the power to protect themselves like me? They are not so many. So, there is a lot of intimidation before the elections. People are being intimidated into submitting their voter registration slips.
There is also this issue of vote buying. The rice that is being given by the Ministry of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare is used for purposes of vote buying. This was done using the rice that came to Mabvuku. People were told to bring their voter registration slips and you must be a member of this particular party for you to be able to get the rice. Rice which is for social welfare must not be distributed through political structures. Whatever comes from social welfare must be distributed using Government structures that exist in our constituencies and not using political party structures. That is vote buying and people who are doing that must be disqualified.
The other issue is that we cannot pretend that everything is alright and try to get into this election when there is POSA and AIPPA. POSA must be amended. AIPPA must be amended or scrapped totally. POSA is a piece of legislation that was used during the years of the liberation struggle. It was adopted by this Government 37 years ago and they are still using it. Why are they still holding to the relics of colonialism? POSA and AIPPA must go. People must be able to access information. Journalists must be able to access information pertaining to elections. They must be able to get this information before the election, during the election and after the election.
I want to go to the issue of BVR. The voters’ roll that has been produced must be open for inspection by political parties. These political parties must satisfy themselves that this voters’ roll is a voters’ roll that we are able to get into an election with and the election must be free, fair and credible. If some of those things that I have said here are not implemented, some of the biggest political parties in this country – I was listening to my President Advocate Chamisa addressing a rally in Chinhoyi and I quote ‘if some of these issues are not attended to, he might not even want to get into that election’ because he is not going to get into an election. Actually, the Government needs the participation of MDC-T in this election than MDC needs the participation of the Government. If the President of the MDC-T refuses to participate in this election, this election will be a farce and the international community will not recognise it.
The President of this country has two problems. He has the problem of legitimacy and acceptability. If he does not run this election in a free, fair and transparent manner, he will still suffer the problem of lack of legitimacy. These issues must be attended to if the President of this country must get legitimacy but in any case, come elections in 2018, the President of this country will not need legitimacy because there will be a new pair of hands running the country. With that Mr. Speaker, I rest my case. I thank you.