ConCourt ruling: Expecting the WORST and hoping for the BEST

Zimbabwe’s constitutional court will preside over a landmark case in which MDC Alliance President; Nelson Chamisa is seeking nullification of the July 30 elections whose outcome was in favour of Zanu PF’s Emmerson Mnangagwa.

By Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition

The July 30 elections were marred by several irregularities as witnessed by events that obtained pre and post the election period.

Chief among the irregularities included the controversy around the printing, storage and transportation of the ballot papers as well as the issue of the voters’ roll.

It has to be noted that Zimbabwe’s Electoral Court set before contestants were issued with the voters’ roll and this was against recommendations by regional missions to the 2013 Zimbabwean elections while logistics around the printing and distribution of ballot papers remained a top secret.

This came at a time there was an apparently unholy alliance between the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) and Zanu PF.

The Elections Logistics Committee, which is tasked with the running of elections, remained a top secret as well amid allegations that it was staffed with Zanu PF sympathizers and members of the military.

In the run up to the elections, it became crystal clear that transparency and accountability were largely lacking on the part of ZEC which had apparently been militarized following the November 2017 coup which deposed former President, Robert Mugabe.

Other irregularities prior to the July 30 elections included the issue of soldiers as well as traditional leaders being deployed to campaign for Zanu (PF) in the rural areas against the dictates of the country’s supreme law.

There was also an attempt to steal postal votes and this was unearthed at Rose Camp police station in Bulawayo on July 12, 208 when it was exposed that members of the police force were being made to vote under the watchful eye of their superiors who were directing them to vote for Zanu (PF).

At that time, the ZEC Acting Chief Elections Officer, Utoile Silaigwana connived with the state media and flatly refused that there was postal voting taking place.

The State media, and in particular The Herald, would go on to pull down the story from their website after the Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) confirmed that indeed postal voting had taken place.

During the pre-election period, vote buying and intimidation were quite rampant as well while the State media operated as more of a Zanu PF mouthpiece against the opposition. A number of top leaders in ZANU PF publicly intimated that the military would not respect any electoral outcome that was not in favour of the ruling party.

On voting day, several bogus polling stations were exposed while in some areas, opposition election agents were threatened and chased away from polling stations. There were alarming cases of assisted voters with Masvingo Province in particular recording very high numbers.

A number of ZANU PF activists were also seen milling around polling stations recording details of those who had voted.

In the Gokwe-Chireya area, a number of traditional leaders either stood as candidates of the ruling party or were chief election agents in direct contravention of the Traditional Leaders Act

At some of polling stations around the country, the number of people who voted was more than the number of people who had registered to vote. A video of a truck that had delivered ballot papers to a polling station in Mtawatawa, Mashonaland East province also went viral on social media.

The transmission, counting and declaration of results was a serious cause for concern with ZEC admitting data capture errors. This in itself is a pointer that ZEC was not prepared to run a credible election and lacked the necessary expertise as the tallying of votes is marred by inaccuracies

Going Forward

In as much as ordinary Zimbabweans are pinning their hopes on the constitutional court application, there are genuine fearsamong the ordinary citizens.

The fears among ordinary Zimbabweans, (captured through snap surveys) are premised on the following

  1. That the current Zanu PF is a military junta– It is a fact that Mnangagwa came into power following a military coup in November 2017 which was disguised as ‘Operation Restore Legacy’. The need to entrench political power resulted in the militarization of key state institutions including ZEC.
  2. That the appointment of the Chief Justice is the preserve of the president who in this case is a respondent or interested party in an Electoral Dispute presided over by the same appointee and this defeats the principle of separation of powers and compromises the independence of the judiciary. President Mnangagwa (then as Minister of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs) pushed for the Amendment of the Constitution (Constitution Amendment Bill No.1 of 2017) to further entrench presidential powers in the appointment of the Chief Justice.
  3. The recent court ruling against calls for more players to broadcast and stream live the Constitutional Court case goes against media plurality and principles of transparency and accountability to the general citizenry. This is reminiscent of the outcome of the 6 major court cases that had implications on the elections and were dismissed by the same court soon after the Proclamation of the Election Date in June 2018. Such cases included compelling ZEC to be transparent and accountable, release of the voters roll, Diaspora voting and the subjection of ZEC to the Minister of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs despite the constitution giving it full independence
  4. Mnangagwa will shoot for power – This was revealed by Zanu PF’s Minister for Masvingo State province, Josiah Hungwe May 2018. In December 2016, Hungwe had openly stated that Zanu PF will hire the army to safeguard their stay in power. And in December 2017, Mnangagwa’s Special Advisor, Christopher Mutsvangwa publicly announced that Zanu PF will be campaigning with the assistance of the army. Events that obtained on August 1, 2018 when 7 people were shot by the military in Harare served as clear testimony to Hungwe’s sentiments that Mnangagwa will shoot for power. It became quite apparent that after the sham polls of July 30, 2018 the army was ready to silence any dissenting voices with the bullet. After the army was unleashed to shoot civilians in the capital, there was unwarranted arrest of opposition leaders and supporters while civil society leaders were being persecuted and had to flee for safety
  5. That the army stands ready to block opposition rule- The current Vice President, Constantine Chiwenga, who is apparently in control of the army at the moment (despite retiring from the army, he still operates his office at the King George VI Barracks in Harare), during his days as Commander of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces stated on numerous occasions that the army will never allow the opposition to rule the country. His sentiments would be buttressed by other senior army and Zanu PF officials. In May 2018, Zanu PF’s Terrence Mukupe openly declared that even if the opposition wins in elections, the army would block their ascendancy to power.
  6. Zanu PF’s interference with the judicial system- This was prevalent during Mugabe’s era and when Mnangagwa had made attempts to make Zimbabweans and the whole word believe that the country was in a new era, he confirmed our worst fears when he declared that he had to intervene to ensure that opposition leader, Tendai Biti was granted bail following his arrest on allegations of releasing election results. In states such as Zimbabwe, the judiciary is often controlled and manipulated to serve the narrow interests of the incumbent.
  7. A number of election disputes have not been concluded including the case of the now late former Prime Minister and leader of the Opposition MDC T, Morgan Tsvangirai challenging the election of former President Robert Mugabe in 2002. This, in the eyes of the ordinary citizen further shutters the little shred of hope that the Judiciary is capable of delivering a justifiable outcome. There is genuine fear among ordinary regarding the apparent connection between the judiciary, ZEC and the Zanu PF.

CiZC Position:

As Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition, we reiterate our position that the July 30, 2018 elections were marred by several irregularities, pre and post the election period and thus failed the credibility test. It is our view that the attempt at sanitizing the November 2017 coup through a shady electoral process has bred and perpetuated a state legitimacy crisis. We abhor the attempts by Zanu PF to force ordinary citizens into submission through arbitrary arrests, intimidation as well as the bullet. In our view the post Mugabe dispensation saw the rise of hardliners in the ruling party backed by the military who have shown little commitment to reforming our political space. In the interregnum Zimbabwe’s transition to democracy has regressed to the 2008 stalemate.

More importantly, we however would like to put it on record that the credibility of the July 30 elections as well as legitimacy of the next government would heavily rely on a credible and progressive outcome from the constitutional court process.

We are disturbed by reports of Zanu PF trying to stick to its old ways of influencing court processes and outcomes.