There have never been free, fair and credible elections in Zimbabwe since 2000 particularly in the rural areas where the majority of voters live (about 70 %) accounting for 143 contestable constituencies out of 210. Voters are coerced to vote for ZANU PF against their will through violence and intimidation and this has always assured ZANU PF of predetermined and illegitimate election outcomes in their favour.
The ZANU PF and Mugabe’s strategy of forcing the electorate to vote against their will involves the following:
1. ZANU PF forces rural voters to attend their political meetings/rallies against their will where they are told how to vote for ZANU PF. Those that attend opposition rallies are identified, denounced and later punished.
2. On voting day, voters are marshalled and frogmarched to polling stations by village heads and queue in a predetermined order with the village head at the back ordering everyone to vote for ZANU PF.
3. Literate voters such as teachers, civil servants (In some cases ZEC polling officers) and known opposition party supporters are also intimidated and forced to feign illiteracy so that they are assisted to vote.
4. There was widespread violence in the 2002 and 2008 presidential elections, Many people were assaulted, murdered and property was looted or destroyed. Women were also raped. ZANU PF succeeds in using this as a reference point to intimidate the electorate to vote against their will and the voters have nowhere to turn to for help.
5. Violence during elections is state sponsored. Known perpetrators are not arrested. Polling day in Zimbabwe is made peaceful in order to hoodwink election observers into believing that elections are free and fair
This strategy of forcing voters to vote for ZANU PF against their will using violence, intimidation, coercion, destruction of property and abuse of traditional leaders started on a large scale during the by-elections held in the following constituencies:
Marondera West in 2000
Bikita, Bindura, Makoni West, Chikomba in 2001
Presidential elections and Insiza by election in 2002
The strategy was perfected and employed on a greater scale in June 2008 Presidential elections run off. It usually focuses on coercing defenceless rural voters to vote for ZANU PF against their will. However in the 2008 Presidential elections run off, the strategy was used in urban high density areas as well.
In 2013 there was no widespread violence used but intimidation was rampant with war veterans and ZANU PF youths and officials threatening villagers with a repetition of 2008 atrocities if the rural voters disobeyed orders to vote for ZANU PF against their will.
WHY HAS THE STRATEGY WORKED
ZANU PF has been able to use the strategy of coercing people to vote against their will since 2000 with impunity due to the following:
No opposition party has ever fully exposed the ZANU PF strategy of coercing people to vote against their will. Instead the opposition dwells on minor, peripheral and sometimes fictitious issues. This is a diversion which takes away focus from the core issue of the ZANU PF strategy of coercing voters to vote against their will.
Examples Of Diversionary Issues And Tactics Used By Opposition Political Parties To Protect The Strategy
a) They loudly accuse ZANU PF of using a defective voters roll to rig elections. However, the Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace (CCPJ) in the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) report notes that a voter’s roll can never be perfect in any country .A perfect voters roll cannot stop ZANU PF from coercing people to vote against their will.
b) They call for the amendment, repeal and realignment of the country’s electoral laws. But it should be noted that ZANU PF and the state violate The Zimbabwean Constitution, local laws, regional and international laws in an effort to coerce voters to vote for ZANU PF against their will. Therefore adding more laws whilst existing ones are not being respected cannot solve the current problem.
c) A shadowy Israeli organization named NIKUV which opposition parties have accused of manipulating election results in favour of ZANU PF is a creation of a discredited Facebook character Baba Jukwa, in 2013, yet coercion of rural voters has happened since 2000. Thus this NIKUV fiction came when we already had our problem
d) The ZEC Report on the 2013 Harmonized Elections and the findings of an investigation into Mliswa’s Complaint in the 2015 Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission (ZHRC) Report, clearly highlighted the ZANU PF strategy of coercing voters to vote against their will as the major rigging mechanism. These reports were tabled in Parliament. However, opposition parties looked the other way and never discussed them.
e) The Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission in its pre-election press statement of 29 July 2013 reiterated that “we are ready to receive complaints about any possible election related human rights violations and any other general human rights violations…We will take appropriate action where necessary including, but not limited to, directing the Commissioner General of police to investigate cases of suspected criminal violations of human rights as constitutionally mandated.” However, opposition political parties have failed to work with and take advantage of well-meaning constitutionally constituted state institutions to deal with electoral state sponsored violence.
f) In 2013 there were 9670 polling stations in the country. There is no evidence that a single opposition party identified the problem of forcing voters to vote for ZANU PF. Yet almost all election observers picked it.
g) In the March 2008 Harmonized Elections ZANU PF relaxed the strategy of forcing voters to vote against their will. This was due to the intervention of SADC. Results were displayed at all polling stations and they were signed by party polling agents. This meant that each party could come up with its own results for councillors, Members of Parliament and the Presidential candidate. In April 2008, a recount was done in 23 constituencies. A verification process was conducted at the Sheraton Hotel at which every political party was required by SADC to produce its own results. The MDC – T failed to produce their own Presidential candidate’s election results. They could therefore not contest the results announced by ZEC. This failure possibly prejudiced the MDC candidate and the people of Zimbabwe of a great victory.
h) Opposition parties now believe that massive voter registration is the panacea for all our electoral problems. The message being relayed is that voters should gather courage and defy ZANU PF orders by refusing to vote against their will. Elections are not meant for brave voters. In the first place they must never be coerced to vote against their will. Opposition political parties and civil society organizations should therefore advocate, canvass and lobby for an end to the coercion of voters to vote against their will and not canvass for bravery. The brave ones are usually abducted and killed and voters have experienced this.