BULAWAYO – Civic society groups gathered in Bulawayo last Friday during a one day conference where they launched an election campaign dubbed Feya Feya which seeks to ramp pressure on political parties to allow conditions that promote free, fair, peaceful and credible polls.
Our Senior Assistant Editor Guthrie Munyuki attended the launch and below are the excerpts of an interview with Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition spokesperson Thabani Nyoni who unpacks the issues motivating Feya Feya campaign.
Q: On Friday Civic Society groups gathered in Bulawayo to launch the Feya Feya campaign. What is Feya Feya campaign?
A: For us Feya Feya is about fairness in terms of how we conduct ourselves in general terms. That is how we came with the name Feya Feya.
We have always used this word to mean fairness, openness, accessibility, equality and so on. We notice that this is almost common feat and this can fare well in terms of expressing the aspirations of the people of Zimbabwe as we spoke about how the elections have been conducted in the past and how the current developments are unfolding and how this then informs our future and narrative.
The people of Zimbabwe, in terms of the amendments that have been made in the inclusive government, are essentially asking for a fair process in terms of how decisions are done, a fair process in terms of how they elect their leaders, a fair process in terms of how governments change from one to the other. So this campaign tries to capture that and also uses that to reach out to those communities. Its success will be used on how many people buy into the idea and the concept.
Q: What are the objectives of this Feya Feya campaign?
A: We have three objectives. The first one is to make sure that we come up with a coordinated effort as civic society organisations in campaigning or advocating for a conducive environment for free and fair elections.
The second aspect of the campaign is to make sure that we galvanise regional, international and national efforts towards creating a spotlight on the elections in Zimbabwe because we know that in 2008 we were found wanting in terms of having that attention.
The third aspect is coming up with a comprehensive framework of what credible, free and fair election is because we know that the narrative may be changing a little bit to saying free, fair and credible elections are those without physical violence.
For us we want it to be more comprehensive than that because credible elections are not just about not having dead bodies; there are also about citizens that know they can have their choices in the hope they cannot be persecuted for those choices.
Q: Why did you gather in Bulawayo for this launch which was a departure from what you normally do?
A: While this campaign is essentially to try and change the way we conduct elections and the way citizens interact with elections, this campaign’s success will be very much based on how much members of the public, the ordinary citizens accept it.
So we decided that change must go to Harare, it must not come from Harare. It is not a top down campaign that is created, finalised and launched in hotels and so on but it must be launched in the communities, in the townships.
This is for symbolic reasons that it must move from down to the top rather than from top to down.
Q: You say vote Feya Feya but what is the current situation on the ground in terms of the country’s preparedness to hold free and fair elections?
A: The ongoing voter registration was supposed to be 30 days within a certain ward but right now we notice that it is district based where there is movement of teams within a ward and in its area you discover that the mobile team takes three days.
It has ceased to be a 30-day voter registration as mandated by our Constitution.
And in terms of commitment to lack of intimidation or vote buying, we see a lot of cases that are worrying; including the onslaught on the media apart from the fact that we still have no reforms.
Q: How does Feya Feya campaign fit in this situation?
A: In this environment, the Feya Feya campaign wants to address three key problems. The first problem is the problem of voter apathy that arises from a number of issues including one, lack of access, two, crisis of confidence in the electoral process, three, a lot of intimidation and four, lack of access to the process in terms of voter registration.
The campaign will, therefore, seek to popularise and make sure that there is access in terms of information from the citizens in terms of how and what they can do to participate in the elections.
Popularise and galvanise citizens and incentivise their participation by making sure they have information and that also where there is no information there is a documentation of their challenges and quick response.
That is the first part of the problem. The second problem is the environment, the context.
The campaign is saying currently the context does indicate that we will have credible elections. So there is need for a campaign that will put pressure for sufficient political will to create a condition that will allow people to feel free to express themselves with the full knowledge that there will be respected, going forward.
The last of the issues is a critical one as well where we are talking about the fact that Zimbabwe has been under the curatorship of Sadc through its mediation or facilitation. And we notice that in 2008, the continental and regional community was not adequately prepared to deal with the dynamics of what happened.
So part of this campaign is to ensure that there is national and regional consensus around what credible elections look like but also they are constantly involved and engaged on the situation in Zimbabwe to be able to make a comprehensive and accurate verdict in terms of the process of our elections and its outcome.