Zimbabwe needs strong institutions to end vicious cycle of poll disputes – Moyo


ZIMBABWE requires strong institutions that cannot be manipulated by a sitting president and credible electoral processes to end the vicious cycle of disputed elections that have plagued the country’s politics, former Higher and Tertiary Education minister Jonathan Moyo has said.

Nyasha Chingono 

This comes in the wake of an unusual election result dispute in the United States where outgoing President Donald Trump is refusing to concede after being defeated by president-elect Joe Bidden. US institutions are now managing the complicated transition.

In an exclusive interview with The NewsHawks, Moyo, also a professor of politics, said Zimbabwe should take a leaf from the just-ended US elections where the poll is not run by central government and military-controlled command centres. The dispute in the US is being contained and managed by professional state institutions.

Zimbabwe’s electoral system and processes have over the years failed to deliver free, fair and credible elections due to political interference from the executive and the military. 

The judiciary has also been accused of assisting the executive to cover their tracks when challenged over elections theft. 

Challenging disputed electoral outcomes in the courts always goes in favour of the incumbent in Zimbabwe and most African countries, except Kenya and Malawi of late.

The last major electoral court battle in Zimbabwe was between President Emmerson Mnangagwa and his main opposition rival MDC Alliance leader Nelson Chamisa in 2018. The Constitutional Court (Concourt) ruled in favour of Mnangagwa.

But Moyo fiercely criticised the Concourt in his book, Excelgate: How Zimbabwe’s 2018 Presidential Election Was Stolen, whichdetails the dynamics and forensics of electoral fraud. He has also previously written another book on elections, Voting for Democracy.

Since 2000, Zimbabwe’s opposition has often cried foul over vote manipulation and fraud by the ruling party using state institutions.

A disappointed Trump, alleging electoral theft without evidence, is testing the capacity and resolve of US institutions to deal with such electoral disputes. 

“The difference between the American electoral system and Donald Trump is that of night and day. And this is where the lesson is for us…The American electoral system cannot be manipulated by a sitting president. It is not possible for a sitting president in America to phone the chairperson of the Electoral Commission and direct them to behave in a particular way,” Moyo said.

“It is not possible for a sitting American president to send the army, the American military to go and steal an election for him. It is not possible for the American president to send the intelligence system, the CIA, to go inside there in the voting booths to manipulate; they cannot manipulate the electoral commission chairperson, you know, the Chigumba person, the police and so forth.”

During the 2018 election, in which Mnangagwa narrowly edged Chamisa, Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) chairperson Priscilla Chigumba was accused of facilitating a fraudulent electoral victory for Mnangagwa by hook or crook.  

Moyo also said there were lessons to be learnt from the devolved American electoral system, saying it eliminates undue influence from central government and the incumbent.  

“Now, there are 50 states in the United States (plus Washington DC); there are 50 electoral systems. Each state organises and runs elections, in a unique, different way. There is no uniform way of running elections. And this is a very important lesson, in my view, the most important lesson to draw from the American electoral system, because the right to vote is the most important of all rights. People jealously guard this right,” Moyo said. 

Moyo said Zimbabwe should cultivate a new electoral system where all votes are not counted, centralised at a command and announced in Harare only, especially the presidential election. He said electoral reform must deal with all these issues to ensure counting of votes within constituencies to avoid fraud at a centralised command centre. 

“You can imagine how meaningless it is for someone voting in Tsholotsho to have that vote, counted by Chigumba in Harare, at the HICC (Harare International Conference Centre). It becomes easy to steal the vote,” Moyo said.

The former minister called on the media to be allowed to announce computed and verified results posted outside polling stations, indicating there is no reason to wait for someone in Harare to announce the results when reporters would in fact be looking at them. In America, the media can call an election based on projections. 

Moyo said this however requires investment in skills, technology and mathematical computation models by the media. 

“The media in the United States calls the election. You wait for the media to say, we can now call Pennsylvania for Biden. Whereas in our place, in our experience, we will wait for Chigumba to announce. This is a very important lesson in the United States, media called the election on the basis of a projection,” he said. – News Hawks Zimbabwe