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Faz backfires on Mnangagwa?

by Staff reporter
27 Aug 2023 at 08:12hrs | Views
President Emmerson Mnangagwa's reliance on a shadowy organisation to spearhead his re-election campaign has come back to haunt him after foreign observer missions cited it as one of the plethora of things that marred the August 23 elections.

The Southern African Development Community (Sadc) led the stinging rebuke on the conduct of the polls as it flagged the role of Forever Associates Zimbabwe (Faz), an organisation believed to have links with state security organs.

Faz was accused of intimidating voters after it set up tables outside polling stations where it took down names of voters.

It was also in the forefront of Zanu-PF's election campaigns where there were reports of intimidation and even violence against opposition Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) supporters.

Mnangagwa is said to have turned to Faz to coordinate his re-election bid due to mistrust of internal party structures as divisions rocked Zanu-PF.

Sadc election observer mission head Nevers Mumba, who is also former Zambian vice-president, was unequivocal in his criticism of Faz operations.

 "In previous stakeholder consultations, a shadowy organisation referred to as Faz was accused of conducting a countrywide exercise of electoral intimidation," Mumba said.

"Our observers confirmed the existence of this group as its officials or agents were easily identifiable at some polling stations as they were dressed in regalia emblazoned with the Faz name and were accredited as local observers.

"These and other unidentified persons, who were not polling officials were also observed taking down the names of voters before they cast their votes.

"In some areas, voters were intimidated by the actions of these individuals."

The European Union Election Observer mission (EU EOM) said the elections fell short of regional and international standards due to acts of violence and intimidation by Faz members.

 "We noted that there was heavy presence of FAZ, which was allegedly recording details of those who were voting," said EU EOM chief observer Fabio Massimo Castaldo.

"The EU Election Observation Mission concludes that curtailed rights and lack of level playing field led to an environment that was not always conducive to voters making a free and informed choice in Zimbabwe's 2023 harmonised elections.

"The passing of regressive legal provisions and acts of violence and intimidation resulted in a climate of fear."

The Commonwealth observer group also condemned the presence of Faz at polling stations.

"We observed, and received various reports, that an NGO called Faz had set up ‘exit poll survey' tables in close proximity to polling stations, with governing party regalia," the group said.

"From our briefings with other civil society organisations and stakeholders, it was made clear that exit polling is currently not permitted within the legal framework of Zimbabwe."

The United Kingdom embassy in Harare said: "Observer missions also noted long delays in the opening of polling stations in some urban areas, as well as allegations of intimidation by the Zanu-PF-aligned Faz."

A local think-tank, Zimbabwe Democracy Institute (ZDI) accused Faz of wanting to hijack electoral processes to rig the polls on behalf of Mnangagwa.

"Zanu-PF party deployed a quasi-military NGO called the Faz to infiltrate (the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission, interfere with administration of elections and disperse manipulation and intimidation across the rural areas on behalf of Zanu-PF," ZDI said.

"The deployment of state security apparatus is expressed through manipulation and partisan use of the military and shadowy security sector-linked bodies by Zanu-PF to achieve electoral victory."

Zimbabwe Election Advocacy Trust executive director Ignatious Sadziwa said he did not see Zanu-PF disbanding Faz.

"Zanu-PF survives on dirty tactics and Faz antics fit well in their game plan," Sadziwa said.

 "I don't think they will disband the outfit because of backlash from observers.

  "They will rather endure presiding over sham elections at all costs as long as they stay in power."

Political analyst Romeo Chasara echoed the same sentiments.

"The presence of Faz is a serious threat to the integrity of the elections," Chasara said.

"I think it's highly unlikely that Faz will be disbanded.

"It is going to be used to whip into line the rural people, so that Zanu-PF controls its strongholds where CCC has penetrated."

On Friday, Zanu-PF spokesperson Christopher Mutsvangwa defended Faz as a duly registered ruling party affiliate group.

Source - the standard