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Zimbabwe remains polarised

26 Aug 2023 at 16:51hrs | Views
ZIMBABWEANS on Wednesday exercised their right to vote by participating in the harmonised elections.

The elections were fraught with technical and logistical glitches, but the results showed the citizens are still divided on political lines.

By late Tuesday afternoon, most rural constituencies had all their voting material. The tents were up, and the polling staff were onsite. This was one heck of mammoth planning. Voting duly started by 7am or soon after at most of the polling stations in Mashonaland West province.

However, the situation was completely different in Harare and Bulawayo, the two metropolitan provinces in Zimbabwe.

Voting at most stations started well after lunch hour, prompting President Emmerson Mnangagwa to gazette a statutory instrument to make Thursday a polling day.

Whatever the reasons for the delay, the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) comes out as deliberate in planning the chaos in the opposition stronghold.

The development further reinforced the perception that Zec is biased in favour of Zanu-PF.

The mistakes suppressed voter turnout in the metropolitan provinces. This is another area that the electoral management body should reform on.

It must gain the confidence of the people that it can deliver a fair, free and credible election.

The opposition, from numbers in the public domain, seems set to have more than a third of contested seats in the National Assembly.

However, what remains to be seen is how strong is the caucus and what agenda it will drive when once sworn in.

It is also a fact that Zimbabwe has not bridged the urban/rural divide. The opposition did extremely well in urban areas and has control of most municipalities and town councils.

These will be new areas of contestation with Zanu-PF and a quick win-win solution should be found if the councils are going to perform any better than they have done in the past.

It is a moment that devolution, in the letter and spirit of the Constitution, should immediately be implemented.

Councils should have a certain degree of autonomy and the Local Government minister should interfere less with issues such as budgets and day-to-day running of the local authorities. The minister should cease playing the role of a super mayor.

The long and short of it is Zimbabwe urgently needs a new local governance architecture.

Councils need executive mayors, people who are responsible for the management of local authorities.

It is important that the opposition should step up and be judged on their performance.

They should start delivering to the people basic services like water, refuse collection, creches, street lighting, roads and primary care clinics.

Any failure to do so will breed apathy and anger, which will be a danger to our democracy.

It can never be over-emphasised that Zimbabwe needs electoral reforms. It was and is plain to all who care that the public media was a disservice in these elections.

The constituency boundaries adopted before these elections were done in an arbitrary manner and needs to be revised. Simply, the delimitation exercise should be transparent and reasonable.

Zec should be able to swiftly deal with complaints from stakeholders and more importantly deliver on its mandate that all election logistics should be in place a day or two before polling day. Voting should be done smoothly.

It is also worrisome that about a fifth of the voters went to wrong polling stations.

This proved that there was not enough voter education and voter registration checking done prior to the polling day.

Political parties and civil society should be allowed to conduct voter education and encourage voters to check their names and polling stations.

Things may be tense in the next few days as citizens wait for the official announcement of the presidential vote.

There may be electoral petitions which will heighten tensions, but the first lesson is parallel tabulation of the votes should be normalised and accepted. Zimbabweans deserve to know election winners without undue delay.

On that point, it is important to publicly thank Temba Mliswa, who within 12 hours after polling conceded defeat to Citizens Coalition for Change candidate Richard Tsvangirai.

This proved Mliswa had a sophisticated structure with dedicated members who managed to collate and analyse the votes from all polling stations in the constituency.

The Zec announcement later was mere confirmation of what Mliswa supporters knew and had been informed by their team earlier.

We need more people like Mliswa, people who accept defeat graciously.

Imagine how all at ease would Zimbabweans be at this hour if presidential candidates had conceded within 24 hours of close of voting.

The country would now be talking of the structure and persons to be appointed to a new Cabinet.

Zimbabwe cannot afford to have protracted legal disputes. The country is in a mess economically. Any further deterioration could spark social unrest.

It is important that nothing should be done to shock the economy, but more should immediately be done to deal with the economic problems.

Among the challenges that need to be addressed like yesterday are the currency question, debt resolution, fighting corruption and efficient and transparent use of allocated public resources.

Zimbabwe should not be a sea of poverty with dotted islands of riches. That is a recipe for social upheaval. New economic models should be adopted quickly.

Wealth must be redistributed and at the same time a conducive environment for economic growth should be set. This is no mean feat, but it is doable.

As we move forward, hate and inflammatory language should be discarded from the politicians' lexicon.

The country needs to be healed and a strong foundation for nationhood put in place. All historic and present grievances should be resolved, and Zimbabweans be united. Polarisation cannot be allowed to divide and hold Zimbabwe back from developing.

Source - newsday
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