Q&A: ‘Elections have failed Zimbabwe’

Pedzisai Ruhanya, director of the Zimbabwe Democracy Institute, says there has been a “suppression” of civil rights.

Zimbabwe election
Zimbabwe's opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai has said the election was a fraud [Reuters]

Harare, Zimbabwe – As results start trickling in following Wednesday’s elections in Zimbabwe, showing Robert Mugabe’s Zanu-PF firmly in the lead, senior opposition figures have already started condemning the electoral process as a sham.

On Thursday, the Movement for Democratic Change’s Morgan Tsvangirai described the election as a “huge farce” while his Secretary General Tendai Biti told Al Jazeera that Zimbabwe was entering “a political crisis”.

Millions of Zimbabweans have pinned their hopes on this election as a means to consolidate the relative democratic gains over the past five years of a unity government shared mostly by Zanu-PF and the MDC, after the political crisis that followed the 2008 elections.

Many say that the country cannot afford another political crisis.

With few incidents of violence, little intimidation to report over the election period, and, crucially, with Southern African Development Community (SADC) and African Union (AU) observers endorsing the elections as credible, activists and civil society say the results present a mere veneer of the truth.

Al Jazeera talks to Pedzisai Ruhanya, director of Zimbabwe Democracy Institute, a civil rights and advocacy group based in the capital Harare, on why these the elections have been problematic for the Zimbabwean people.

Al Jazeera: What is your assessment of this election?

Pedzisai Ruhanya: There has been an organised and coordinated suppression of the democratic will of the people. Fundamentally, there are two issues. One, the environment of the election and the second is the administration and content of the elections.

Concerning the environment, the civil and political rights of the people have not been considered. Although elections have been relatively peaceful, they have not been free of intimidation. In terms of administration, there are problems with how the electoral body managing the election prepared this election. And how it was compiled. There was targeted and coordinated registration of people in urban areas meaning that certain demographics left out, not able to participate, and there were too many bottle necks.

AJ: But why did the MDC-T and others participate in an election when it was clear the conditions were not likely to be ideal?

PR: Even I participated, knowing the conditions of this election. But there was monumental fraud. There was a feeling that people wanted to move on, and change their lives. We did not anticipate this systematic, naked and brazen manipulation. This time, there has been not naked violence and this makes it very difficult for the international community, for the AU, and SADC to be able to say the election was not free and fair.

AJ: So much talk about the voters roll. Explain why the voters roll was essential in this election?

PR: The voters roll is the primary document in an election. It is a fundamental document that tells you who is supposed to vote, and who is not supposed to vote. How do you go to an election when you do not know who should vote? And how do you say that election is credible then?

AJ: What about the SADC and the AU endorsing this poll? They are the window to the world without western observers.

It is not for SADC but the people who must authenticate this election. It is the people of Zimbabwe, and not SADC or the AU, both of which are communities of nations. The onus is on the people of Zimbabwe, the opposition and civil society to compile evidence to expose their rigging

Finally, if the MDC reject this election fully, what is likely to be their course of action?

Firstly, they should not go to the courts. There is no court that would defy Mugabe. If they go to court, they risk legitimizing Mugabe. And they will be forced by the international community to accept the result.

They need to look at their own internal failings, and see where they went wrong. And they need to look at the next election, and organize themselves. I do not see people coming on the streets. We must not mourn and we must be organized. We must not accept Mugabe’s rigged poll.

Additional reporting by Tendai Marima

Source: Al Jazeera