HARARE – Opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai says President Robert Mugabe and his warring ruling Zanu PF — fearful of receiving an even bigger poll shellacking than they got in 2008 — are already working feverishly to steal next year’s make-or-break harmonised elections.
Speaking to the Daily News yesterday, Tsvangirai’s spokesperson Luke Tamborinyoka said the former prime minister during the era of the stability-inducing government of national unity was gravely concerned by the “overwhelming information” that the MDC had received, which pointed to the fact that Zanu PF was “already in the process of stealing next year’s elections”.
Among some of the “dirty methods” the ruling party — which is wracked by its deadly tribal, factional and succession wars — was allegedly using to rig the 2018 polls, was hijacking the country’s biometric voter registration (BVR) process, as well as abusing traditional leaders.
Tsvangirai’s concerns emerged as the MDC president was concluding his successful tour of Mashonaland East, where he interacted with traditional leaders — who opened up on how they were already being roped in by Zanu PF to become part of the rigging apparatus to ensure victory for the ruling party in 2018.
This all comes as much controversy has erupted over the past few weeks, following the government’s suspicious decision to sideline the United Nations’ Development Programme (UNDP) in the procurement of the BVR kits, with unanswered questions being raised about how and where Mugabe’s stone-broke administration was suddenly able to secure funding for this to the staggering tune of $17 million.
“There is a plan by Zanu PF to steal next year’s elections. We have been on the ground here in Mashonaland East and what we are seeing and hearing is that Zanu PF wants to steal the next elections again, after they took over the BVR process, in addition to commandeering chiefs, village heads and headmen on board this devious scheme.
“However, we will do all that we can to ensure that traditional leaders are not abused and absorbed into Zanu PF structures? Indeed, the rights of traditional leaders must and will be observed,” the resolute Tamborinyoka said.
“The fearful village heads all said they were forced to be chairpersons of Zanu PF’s cells. That way, Zanu PF will coerce them to frog-march people to vote for the ruling party.
“So, the sum total of Zanu PF’s ploy is that it is assimilating traditional leaders into its partisan structures, abusing them in the process,” Tamborinyoka added.
The president of the chiefs’ council, Fortune Charumbira, was not reachable for a comment yesterday. However, he has previously and controversially declared that every traditional leader is duty bound to support the ruling party, which often pampers them with goodies, money and luxury vehicles ahead of elections.
Much concern has also been raised after Zanu PF, which always abuses State resources to bribe and intimidate rural voters in particular, is said to be communicating the scandalous message that through the BVR process “it will capture and establish the fingerprints of villagers” and thus be able to identify and punish those who will vote for opposition parties.
“Fear and intimidation are emerging to be the key issues in Mashonaland East. The community leaders cited very specific names of the culprits, as well as incidents to explain how fear, coercion and intimidation were the major instruments being used by Zanu PF to cow villagers and keep rural communities at ransom.
“But the president (Tsvangirai) assured them that the people’s vote was secret and that it was a lie by Zanu PF that they would be able, through the BVR process, to see where the people had placed their vote,” Tamborinyoka said.
Apart from intimidating villagers, Zanu PF also continues to dish out food hampers, including rice, while also falsely claiming that the monthly allowances that traditional leaders get will be withdrawn should another party come into power.
“The fact is that this is not Zanu PF money, and Zanu PF should not misrepresent itself as the State. The president also emphasised this to the traditional leaders,” Tamborinyoka said.
Since last year, the MDC — working with other opposition parties through the National Electoral Reform Agenda (Nera) — has been demanding comprehensive electoral reforms to level the political playing field.
It has also been engaging the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec), which it says is infested with Zanu PF functionaries who are there only to look after the interests of the ruling party.
MDC secretary-general and Nera legal advisor, Douglas Mwonzora, told the Daily News yesterday that there was need to carefully analyse why the government had “from the blue” chosen to go it alone in the procurement of BVR kits.
“It was agreed that the procurement of the BVR kits would be done by Zec through the UNDP. Consequently, a joint advertisement was flighted by the UNDP and Zec calling upon all potential suppliers of these kits to place their bids.
“These bids were opened at the UNDP offices in Copenhagen and this was witnessed by both Zec and political parties. It was further agreed that once the winner of the tender was declared, political parties would second their technical experts to inspect these kits.
“But suddenly, the government announced that it was taking over the BVR kits procurement process. Among other things, this means that the government will now select the supplier of these kits.
“Political parties and other key stakeholders will thus not be able to monitor the process,” Mwonzora pointed out.
With the experience of the 2013 election results, where an Israeli company, Nikuv, allegedly manipulated the vote in favour of Zanu PF, there are fears that Zanu PF will temper with next year’s crucial elections.
“Nera totally rejects this move because it is designed to enable the government to manipulate the procurement process. That way, the government will also manipulate the 2018 election process.
“In other words, this move marks the beginning of the rigging of the 2018 elections . . . To this end Nera is organising nationwide demonstrations to show the people’s outrage at this political abomination. Thus all Zimbabweans irrespective of their political affiliation are called to action,” Mwonzora added. – Daily News