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Opposition flogs electoral reforms dead horse, again

31 May 2021 at 05:34hrs | Views
Faced with increasing pressure from its largely impressionable and excitable young members, who are growing impatient, and the counter-attractions presented by other opposition players like Jacob Ngarivhume of Transform Zimbabwe and the 31st July Movement, the MDC Alliance faction has been placed into the deep end of local politics.

This came to the fore last week when the faction of the MDC-T addressed a media conference at its new squatting home, the backyard of its co-vice president, Tendai Biti's law practice offices in Harare's Milton Park suburb on Wednesday.

When the opposition's membership, especially the restive youth, thought that their leader, Nelson Chamisa's lieutenants would spell out the faction's strategy for the beckoning 2023 poll, they were disappointed that all they did was to dust off the tired electoral reform calls for the umpteenth time.

This is because Chamisa has no election strategy to talk of.

Those who are familiar with the politics in the various factions and formations of the MDC would know that calls for electoral reforms have been something that the factions and formations use to appease their supporters when the latter show signs of being fed up with their leaders' political ineptitude.

They know that even the party's founding leader, the late Morgan Tsvangirai, also resorted to the same trick when cornered by his supporters. They know that it is just a ruse to pacify them.

Members of the various MDC factions and formation would know that following the MDC-T's dazzling and dizzying defeat at the hands of Zanu-PF in 2013, Tsvangirai sought to leverage the power of the combined opposition vote as a strategy against the ruling party ahead of the 2018 harmonised elections.

This marked the beginning of what was to culminate in the MDC Alliance opposition coalition, which was launched at the Zimbabwe Grounds in Harare in August 2017.

The alliance was made up of seven opposition parties, three of which were MDC splinter outfits and offshoots.

Tsvangirai also pushed for what he termed electoral reforms under an internal campaign named Without Reforms No Elections (WRENE).

Having made inroads in his quest for an opposition coalition ahead of the 2018 polls, Tsvangirai moved to sell the WRENE campaign to his opposition colleagues around 2015 even before the coalition had been formalised and launched.

By the beginning of December 2015, the campaign had been adopted and renamed to the National Electoral Reforms Agenda (NERA).

On December 2 2015, nine opposition leaders signed the NERA document, which sought to compel the Zimbabwe Election Commission (ZEC) to demonstrate the capacity to deliver free, fair and credible elections.

NERA also demanded that ZEC updates its members on the progress made in complying with SADC guidelines and standards in holding free, fair, safe and credible elections among other demands.

NERA members also claimed that the Commission was staffed with some serving members of the security sector and demanded that they be removed.

They also demanded biometric voter registration (BVR), which ZEC delivered ahead of the 2018 harmonised elections.

The opposition also demanded equal coverage by public media organisations like the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation (ZBC) in addition to the harmonisation of the Electoral Act with the Constitution.

What MDC Alliance secretary for elections, Ian Makone, presented was, therefore, not a new opposition election strategy.

It represented an opposition at its wits end to the extent of resurrecting the electoral reforms dead horse whose death was indicative of its uselessness as a strategy.

Despite shrill claims that ZEC was staffed by serving members of the security sector, the opposition has failed to name one such officer when requested to produce proof.

They ended up pointing at ZEC Chief Elections Officer, Utoile Silaigwana.

The ZEC CEO is a former member of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces (ZDF) and a Zimbabwean, who deserves an opportunity to serve his country like any other citizen.

The American former four-star general, Collin Luther Powell served as the US Secretary of State from 2001 to 2005 and the opposition saw nothing wrong with it and the same can't be done in Zimbabwe without the opposition crying foul - what hypocrisy.

Apart from pointing at Silaigwana's military past, the opposition has failed to convincingly articulate the basis of their concern or aversion for former military personnel being employed by ZEC.

Regarding the opposition's calls for media coverage, it has demonstrated that it does not deserve any coverage from both the private and public media. On February 10 2020, ZBC cameraperson, Providence Maranelli, was assaulted by MDC Alliance security details in Gwanda, Matabeleland South Province, for covering Chamisa's address.

On September 1, 2019, an unidentified MDC Alliance security personnel grabbed and confiscated a Canon 6D digital camera belonging to local journalist Ari Goldstein during the party's rally in Glen View, Harare.

Goldstein is the founding journalist of online publication, State of the Nation.

The MDC Alliance security team harassed the journalist as he covered the rally.

About five months later, on January 21 2020, the faction's violent security youths were at it again. They harassed Sly Media Productions scribe, Robert Tapfumaneyi, while he was covering the faction's meeting at Stodart Hall in Mbare, Harare.

This happened while Chamisa was addressing a meeting that he termed the State of the Nation and Agenda 2020.

These incidents demonstrated that the Nelson Chamisa-led MDC Alliance faction does not deserve any media coverage as its security yobs are a danger to journalists.

To that end, the faction should use its own media, The Real Change Times newsletter and the online radio station, Change Radio, which it launched last year.

The MDC Alliance's other gripe under electoral reforms is the need to harmonise the Electoral Act with the Constitution.

Since the adoption of the Constitution in May 2013, Zimbabwe has held two harmonised elections.

The non-harmonisation of the law with the Constitution did not in any way affect the polls.

The opposition should know that harmonisation of laws with the Constitution is an ongoing process and not an event.

It is achieved in Parliament by legislators, irrespective of their affiliation, raising the issue instead of waiting for window dresser media conferences.

If anything betrayed the MDC Alliance's lack of sound strategy ahead of the 2023 polls and the resultant desperation to appease its restive supporters, it was the utterances by the faction's spokesperson, Fadzai Mahere.

The ever out-of-touch-with-reality politician demonstrated that the opposition was not only running out of issues to use to contain its increasingly restive supporters, but it was also fast running out of areas to criticise Government on.

She shocked the world when she claimed that Government did not make "any serious attempts . . . to provide inputs and mechanisation for farmers" at the time that the successful Pfumvudza programme is a result of a Government-supported initiative.

She accused Government of not adopting pro-poor policies, as if the Pfumvudza programme was targeted at commercial farmers.

Mahere spoke on the situation in the country like some Martian visitor.

She spoke as if she was not aware of the Ministry of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare's ongoing programme of feeding Zimbabweans in need of food assistance.

Her utterances betrayed a frustrated opposition outfit which squandered the electorate's trust and mandate for 20 years, especially in the urban areas, where voters are being rewarded with non-existent service and mounting mounds of garbage even in city and town centres.

The issue of electoral reforms was just an excuse.

Tsvangirai earned the moniker Mr Boycott for threatening to boycott elections over issues that included electoral reforms, but he still participated and lost routinely.

Zanu-PF participated and won consistently without the reforms, because they have managed to convince the electorate with their pro-people policies.

The MDC Alliance's perennial electoral losses are not caused by lack of electoral reforms, but by the absence of sound electoral strategy.

For as long as Chamisa and his team continue to think that calling for electoral reforms and threatening pointless protests and mindless violence are a strategy, they will continue to wail at the fringes of Zimbabwe's political landscape.

Source - the herald
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