Draw lessons from by-elections

THE main opposition parties might be boycotting by-elections caused largely by natural attrition but they should not let the crucial lessons from the polls escape their planning for the critical 2018 elections.

While the parties have the discretion to partake in elections or not, be they parliamentary or local authority polls, the Chiwundura by-election can be used as a case study of what lies ahead.

Fundamental questions like, is Zanu PF sharpening its alleged rigging tools ahead of the elections should be addressed and so should be the aptitude and competency of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) to conduct elections in a largely polarised environment.

According to civic rights organisations such as Heal Zimbabwe, several incidents that render the Chiwundura by-election not free and fair were recorded even though Zanu PF was faced with little known parties that could hardly threaten its hegemony.

Zanu PF youths, according to Heal Zimbabwe, carried door to door visits in Zvompumbu Village threatening people with eviction if Zanu PF did not win by 100 percent. Voters were frogmarched to polling stations and traditional leaders also showed yet again that they are still embedded with the ruling party.

As former Vice President Joice Mujuru indicated, the Chiwundura by-election was a farce that does not meet the yardstick of a free and fair election.

Food was used as a political tool with those viewed to be against Zanu PF denied access while in areas like Kurima Kwakanaka people were threatened with eviction if Zanu PF did not register a 100 percent success.
Most worryingly, there was a clear manipulation of the voters’ roll, something that yet again raises important questions over the credibility of the Zec.

It is trite that political parties are complaining about the suitability of Zec to conduct national elections.
While demonstrations are a democratic expression of dissatisfaction with a situation or action, in Zimbabwe they have failed to yield results and it is a lesson that is seemingly escaping the country’s opposition.

Of course there is little room to manoeuvre for the opposition parties but other platforms such as Parliament and commissions that include the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission should be used and investigate human rights violations which were witnessed in Chiwundura.

Without reforms it could be a waste of time for the opposition parties to engage in an election when the environment is skewed and the disturbing signage for a flawed election with a contestable outcome are there for all to see.