By Jennings Rukani.
THERE has never been such expectation when it comes to elections in the history of Zimbabwe, minus the 1980 plebiscite for which President Mugabe romped to victory, leading to independence.
Then Prime Minister Robert Mugabe did not just win the elections, but he won the benefit of the doubt as well, thanks to the generosity of the people of this Southern African country.
The victory that Mugabe won gave him and his supporters the confidence to openly call for a one-party State. The ZANU PF political hegemony was shuttered in 2000 by entrance onto the political scene by Movement of Democratic Change (MDC) led by the charismatic Morgan Tsvangirai, the recently departed.
The opposition party has continued to munch into the ruling party support base and by default, the benefit of the doubt that ZANU PF gained at the historic independence victory. Mr. Emmerson Mnangagwa’s (ED) assumption of the highest office in the land, never mind the mist surrounding it, has been heralded by his supporters and even himself as the ushering in the New Dispensation.
ED has said the right things since coming into office. He has also maintained his cool in spite of the severe criticism and sometimes assassination of his personal character by some quarters. The continued declaration by ED as President, that, he will preside over peaceful, free and fair elections, has raised the expectation and anticipation bar, several notches high.
The international community has pronounced itself ready to re- enter the Zimbabwean investment arena. However, the business sector is risk averse and will adopt a wait and see attitude, until after elections. The young men and women’s expectation for landing jobs has risen to stratospheric levels.
The promise that ED made to us his compatriots and the world at large is therefore a test case for himself. He set himself a test, but citizens will be the markers. It must be made known that Mr. Mnangagwa does not enjoy the benefit of the doubt accorded to President Mugabe after independence.
Implications of the above are that, the ZANU PF Government will not be judged by the pronouncements that they make, but by tangible action. Freeing airwaves does not need any financial investment. All opposition parties must be covered freely and fairly by state press and media.
The peace and tranquillity currently prevailing must be maintained. Political leaders on both sides of the divide must agree on the composition of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission and the other sectors that affect the outcome of elections.
Elections in our country have been disputed for a very long time. In view of that, not only should BVR machines be sourced through a more neutral organisation such as the UN, but even the elections should be internationally supervised. The claim that Zimbabwe is a sovereign state to run her own elections became invalid because of the endless disputes.
In addition to that, both the ruling party and the opposition are in Parliament together. The other very important issue is that a local company must print the ballot papers (buy Zimbabwe mantra) in the presence of representatives of all parties. The ballot papers must be stored and guarded by all parties throughout, until voting ends.
This is in my view, is the only way to guarantee that ED will keep his word for free and fair elections. Local and international observers must also be accorded unfettered access to polling stations and the vote counting process.
If our country achieves the above, all those who doubted ED will be persuaded to re- think their criticism and the man himself will exonerate himself from most of the accusations of the past. Failure to deliver the promised free and fair plebiscite could usher our country into unchartered waters, judging by the enthusiasm the youth has shown for the forth- coming elections.
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