The Blatantly Rigged Zim Election

A Bitter Disappointment

By Ben Freeth, Zimbabwe

3 August 2013


Movement for Democratic Change rallies

There was a mood of quiet confidence prior to the elections almost wherever I went.  Yes, many of the younger people I spoke to said they hadn’t managed to register to vote – but there was a feeling that there were enough people who could vote.  Everyone had had enough.  They wanted change.  Thirty-three years of individual rule by a dictator was enough.

About a quarter of the population had already voted before the election.  They voted with their feet and were living in other countries because it was such a struggle living in Zimbabwe.  The African Commission on Human and People’s Rights had made a judgment that they should not be disenfranchised – but they were.  The people running the election did not allow them to vote for change.

The Southern African Development Community (SADC), we were told, was on sides.  I was never so sure.  When the South Africans refused to follow the court order to release the report of the rigging and the intimidation in the 2002 election, the Khampepe Report[i], I was worried.  That had been the litmus test for me.  If President Jacob Zuma was really a friend of democracy he would have followed the court order and it would have been released.  I suspected there were too many radicals in the ANC who were not so keen on allowing a democratic contest of the great black nationalist champion whose racist policies had allowed his cronies to grab from the whites so many homes and businesses.

The election was suddenly sprung upon everyone three months early due to an apparent maverick applying to the Supreme Court for a snap election before everyone was ready.  It was a brilliant ZANU PF strategy.  They controlled the Supreme Court and could set the election date - so that President Robert Mugabe did not even bother to confer with Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai or the Cabinet.  He was just following the law like a good law abiding President should!  It had obviously been planned well in advance. 

None of the SADC guaranteed reforms had taken place.  The draconian laws that have always been there remain the same.  No reforms had taken place to allow anything but the State-controlled media to broadcast to radios and televisions in people’s homes.   The voters’ roll was a deliberately organized shambles – as it has always been – not giving the urban young the vote and keeping on millions of deceased and absent voters so that the results could be manipulated.

The MDC leadership looked at all this and then they looked at the mass desire for change – and they decided to take the murky plunge.

It was naïve – but they were daring to hope and their hope was contagious.  Many others dared to hope too.  The MDC rallies were full.  People came out of the woodwork from everywhere wearing the red colours of Morgan Tsvangarai’s Movement for Democratic Change (MDC-T) party.  They risked their lives by doing that.  Everyone remembered only too well the pummeling that we all received in the last election.  Shadowy ZANU PF figures were always in the background reminding everyone of it – telling the people that the same mass-scale, brutal violence would happen again if ZANU PF lost; but the people of Zimbabwe want change! 

For others, particularly former farmers, our hopes have been dashed so many times that many had become cynical.  Why would SADC deliver when they hadn’t delivered regarding the Global Political Agreement (GPA), the “cooking” of the recent referendum on a new constitution and then the “cooking” of the special vote? 

Why would the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) deliver when it was headed by a judge who had stolen a farm from one of us, Justice Rita Makarau, and who had shown her colours when presiding over the special vote?  Why would the security apparatus and justice systems deliver when they were all headed by died-in-the-wool ZANU PF people who had always been there?  Why would the registrar general deliver a clean voters’ roll when it was headed by another ZANU PF lackey whose job has always been to cook the voters’ roll ahead of elections?

“As for MDC, its leadership have never once done anything for us when we lost homes, livelihoods and our dignity!” they said.  “And they seem to be just accepting that there will be no observers allowed from the rest of the world where democracy is long established; accepting the election can take place without the guaranteed reforms in the Global Political Agreement; accepting the voters’ roll as it is; accepting that the Diaspora will not vote even though the African Union has said they should.  Accepting, accepting and accepting...”    

Many who looked at all this said: “Even if I am on the voters’ roll, why should I risk driving back to the farm to vote in such a flawed process?”  It was just common sense.

But on election day the people came out, and those that had managed to register to vote and were not turned away, voted.  There was a grim mood of determination as they waited silently in their queues.  There was no jubilation.  As I drove around I noticed everything was just silent.

Yesterday it was the same and today it is the same as yesterday.  Nobody is smiling.  There is a heaviness everywhere you go.  Nobody is even talking about what has happened.  It is too big an event to process:  A return to the Zimbabwe dollar and all that that means.  A return to more lawlessness and grabbing of our homes and businesses.  A return to more corruption by Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO) operatives and policemen.  A continuation of the destruction of industry and jobs because there is no investment.  The collapse of education and health because there is no money from taxes.  It is all too depressing to even contemplate.  Mass emigration will undoubtedly continue.

“God where are you in all this?” we ask. 

“Did all you Christians go off to pray when this was all happening?” I feel Him asking us?  “Did the churches call all their people to stand in the gap against lies, deceit and the weapons of the enemy in the time of need?  Did anyone in the church speak out boldly against all this?”

“No!” we have to reply.  “We did not!”                   

[i] Presidency determined to hold back the Khampepe Report, Mail & Guardian: 1 March 2003: