The struggle continues: Zapu

Zimbabwe’s resources should not be used as a political knobkerrie to bludgeon communities to support the ruling party.
Zimbabwe’s resources should not be used as a political knobkerrie to bludgeon communities to support the ruling party.
Zimbabwe’s resources should not be used as a political knobkerrie to bludgeon communities to support the ruling party.

THE Zimbabwe African People’s Union (Zapu) took part in the general or “harmonized elections” of 2013 after a long absence from the electoral scene as an independent force.

Prior to the 2013 elections, Zapu had last been a contestant in 1985, that is just before the enforced “Unity Accord” of 1987 with
Zanu PF.
The 2015 by-elections, therefore, are only the second time in which we have exercised the right to democratic contestation since a brutal campaign was waged against our supporters and structures soon after Zimbabwe’s independence for which we fought tooth and nail.

The by-elections of June 2015, in which we contested the five Bulawayo constituencies, were surrounded by controversy on account of the unsatisfactory institutional and legal framework.

As we pointed out in the statement we issued when we launched our election campaign on May 9 2015: “Taking part in elections is not the same thing as accepting the state of things, particularly non-implementation of agreed reforms contained in the new Constitution.

“One urgent change that is needed is in the compiling and management of the voters’ roll. Zapu was in the forefront in fighting for change in the run-up to the 2013 harmonised elections.

“We got the voters’ roll analysed and produced preliminary proof that there were irregularities that needed explanation and rectification.”

This year, even before the just-concluded by-elections were necessitated by internal strife and split in the opposition, we resumed the legal fight for a level playing field in elections.

As many of you may have heard, we had a hearing at the High Court on April 27 2015. Our principal bone of contention then and now is that there should be non-partisan control of the elections and the voting process.

A ruling party and its political appointees should not be in control of elections in which it is contesting as one of the participants.

Despite these anomalies and the unsatisfactory environment, Zapu contested and “lost” in the by-elections and take this as part of the long road to democracy that has to be fought on many fronts.

By-elections of June 10 2015 and outstanding issues
There are some recognisable improvements since the 2013 elections as follows:
The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) was able to provide the electronic voters’ rolls, albeit rather late as it was indeed a few days before election day.

Even though the elections were on a much lesser scale, there was a marked reduction in the number of reported incidents of violence and intimidation, save for those reported in the northern parts of the country, in areas such as Hurungwe.

Sadly, there was rampant vote-buying by our opponents from the ruling party, from food parcels in rural areas to the extent of hijacking a simple bus acquisition by a very popular local football club in Bulawayo, Highlanders Football Club.

The bus was used in the most despicable manner as a Zanu PF “handover” ceremony — not only angering a lot of non-partisan football fans, but those who do not want anything to do with Zanu PF whatsoever. It is also irresponsible and provocative as it went against the club’s constitution to involve the club in politics or a political gathering.

One area of major concern and loophole that is practically a slush vote basket for the ruling party is the non-transparent arrangements for voting by police and others resident in official establishments dotted in the constituencies that voted in Bulawayo.

The voting by these sizeable “special vote” numbers was not monitored or accessible to the polling agents from the contesting parties.

Zec independence and self-sufficiency would contribute to proper management and supervision of this aspect of elections. It is not surprising that in spite of a low voter turnout, the final tally of votes has an inexplicable bulge.

Zapu wishes to see to it that the new Constitution of the country is implemented in all aspects. The main focus should firstly be:
To ensure that all Zimbabweans subscribe to and are effectively protected by its founding provisions (Chapter 1) and its national objectives (Chapter 2).

To implement the provisions of a devolved system of government as set out in Chapter 14, Paragraph 264 of the Constitution of Zimbabwe.
For example, imagine: Matabeleland-Zambezi Water Trust, whose stakeholders are inclusively the local authorities of Matebeleland South, Bulawayo and Matabeleland North applying for coal and methane gas mining rights to the Matabeleland North Provincial Council and being denied that licence when revenues from that would go directly to the Matebeleland-Zambezi Water Project (MZWP) for the long-awaited development along the pipeline corridor and water security for Bulawayo?

Had Manicaland Provincial Council been given dominion over their natural resource in Marange district (diamonds), surely they would have distributed the God-given wealth to benefit the entire community.

But look at what has happened in both instances without such devolution of power, under this untenable central government structure?

MZWT was denied both the coal and methane gas mining rights so the project is at a standstill.

Marange Diamonds — How much revenue came into the fiscus, compared to other rejected proposals like Gem Diamonds who had offered a 50-50 Joint Venture with the government?

Zapu will spread its development programmes throughout the country, irrespective of which political formation holds sway in that province. Zimbabwe’s resources should not be used as a political knobkerrie to bludgeon communities to support the ruling party.

In the Bulawayo by-elections, the ruling party used its control of State power to promise that voters would be given several hundreds housing stands if the party got elected.

Tribal propaganda – It is alleged that Zapu is a Ndebele party, or Matabeleland (and maybe the Midlands) oriented. The greatest irony is that Zapu, since inception, has been the only truly ethnically-integrated, non-ethnic, political party in Zimbabwe.

The minute people walk into the Zapu door, since time immemorial, they leave outside their tribal identity, they leave outside any notions or identity according to tribe or ethnicity and they don the progressive, non-discriminatory hat of a united movement defined by goals and vision, not race, tribe or creed.

Zapu is second to none in making people of any tribe or origin feel truly as one with a common purpose — the true liberation and common prosperity of Zimbabwe.

Zapu wants the people to own directly and effectively benefit from the wealth of the country, without the interference of political syndicates, shadowy military or elitist tribal or other such secret sects and cliques.

There are many lessons that we derived from the June 10 2015 by-elections in Bulawayo, both in the state of play of the electoral field and also in the manner in which the electorate exhibited fatigue and despondency.

The perennial loopholes still exist in the management of the electoral process. These include the weakness, lack of adequate resources and failure of Zec to assume full control of the electoral instruments and processes.

On the political front, there were important lessons in the way the voters opposed to the encroachment of Zanu PF into the city rallied to the building of a common front.

The potential for a people-centred coalition of democratic forces became manifest and is increasingly the rallying cry as we prepare for the 2018 elections.

We are happy to have provided the platform for highlighting the importance of unity of purpose that transcends narrow labels and parochial loyalties.

– Zapu