HARARE – Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai has understandably taken serious umbrage with African Union (AU) chairperson Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma’s declaration that all is well in Zimbabwe ahead of Wednesday’s national polls.
Dlamini-Zuma said on Friday, after meeting the country’s warring political leaders, that the AU is satisfied with preparations ahead of the elections — angering Tsvangirai who pointed to her past record as South Africa’s Foreign minister as evidence of her overt bias in favour of President Robert Mugabe.
Indeed, we are also wondering what Madam Dlamini-Zuma is smoking, given the deeply problematic and chaotic preparations that have preceded these rushed polls?
Intimidation and allegations of vote rigging have marred Zimbabwe’s previous elections since 2000.
And the build-up to Wednesday’s polls has not been much better, with the latest being an attempt to block Tsvangirai’s mega rally set for today in Harare.
Can the playing field get more uneven than this?
Naturally this has raised questions about Dlamini-Zuma’s bona fides, particularly given the role she played during former South African president Thabo Mbeki’s much-criticised mediation of the long-running Zimbabwean political crisis.
What is perplexing is that Dlamini-Zuma rightly observed the same Friday, that contesting parties had not been given equal access to the State media, particularly the broadcast monopoly which provides live and in-depth coverage of the president’s campaigns, without affording the same right to other candidates.
So bad in fact is the State media’s behaviour that Tsvangirai has pointed out that the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation (ZBC) is scandalously refusing to air some of his campaign advertisements, on the lame excuse that these adverts are “not suitable for the State media”.
Mobile phone companies again have just been ordered to block bulk text messages that have been successfully used by independent civic groups to circulate election information, and one begins to see how the odds are heavily stacked against Mugabe’s opponents.
It does not end here.
Human Rights Watch has also just reported that militia has been deployed across the country to allegedly intimidate and abuse those people perceived to be too critical of Mugabe and Zanu PF.
Our partisan police have also been arresting civil society members and human rights lawyers such as Beatrice Mtetwa who are either seen as threatening Mugabe’s 33 long years of misrule, or dare to defend victims of Zanu PF’s brazen thuggery.
Mtetwa was recently detained after she asked police for a search warrant when they searched one of her clients’ homes.
When she told the police that what they were doing was unlawful, unconstitutional, illegal, and undemocratic, she was incarcerated for weeks for allegedly “obstructing the course of justice”.
Then there are the real concerns that the voters’ roll is grossly inaccurate, with a recent report by Research and Advocacy Unit, a Harare-based non-governmental organisation, revealing that more than a million people on the roll are either deceased or departed, while 63 constituencies allegedly have more registered voters than inhabitants.
It is staggering, and there really is no prize for guessing who the alleged ghost voters would be making their crosses for on Wednesday.
It is shocking that Dlamini-Zuma would pretend she is unaware of all this, and go on to say Zimbabwe will have a free and fair election.
As things stand, the likelihood is that the outcome of the elections will be contested again, with disastrous consequences for the economy and the political well-being of this long-suffering country.
Surely there are none so blind as those who will not see like madam Dlamini-Zuma, at a devastating cost to Zimbabwe of course.