‘Teachers for ED’ project raises 2023 rigging fears
THE recent launch of the ‘Teachers for ED’ project by President Emmerson Mnangagwa has raised fears of rigging of next year’s general elections as the same educators who have endorsed him will be among those recruited by the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission to work as polling officers around the country.
Traditionally, Zec recruits teachers from a pool of public sector workers to play various roles in the voting process.
These roles include being voter educators, polling officers and presiding officers in the ward-based system of voting adopted in Zimbabwe when the country ushered in its new constitution in 2013.
During the launch of the Teachers for ED project at the Harare International Conference Centre, the members of the programme were quick to announce that they were going to be backing Mnangagwa as Zanu PF’s sole presidential candidate in the 2023 elections.
The teachers, drawn from the country’s 10 provinces, were visibly excited as they enjoyed the pomp and ceremony whike decked out in colourful Zanu PF regalia. Song and dance was the order of the day.
Zec has always been seen as lacking independence in running the elections, but the body is further compromised by working with partisan teachers in its electoral processes.
The current set up therefore gives a precursor to yet another disputed election in 2023 in which the current leader President Emmerson Mnangagwa will be seeking to wrest a second term by dribbling past charismatic opposition Citizens’ Coalition for Change leader Nelson Chamisa.
Teachers for ED chairperson Amon Chihocha, Education minister Evelyn Ndlovu and other senior Zanu PF members like Patrick Chinamasa and Oppah Muchinguri-Kashiri during the launch in Harare openly showered Mnangagwa with praises.
Mnangagwa during the launch urged the overjoyed teachers to remain firm in supporting the ruling party and his presidential bid.
“Reject those who may seek to derail your cause, founding revolutionary aspirations and the pan-African values of your budding organisation,” said the Zanu PF leader, adding:
“As the teaching fraternity, never allow yourselves to be used as tools by our country’s detractors in their divisive and subversive activities. Always remain patriotic and loyal to our country.”
“Informed by this relationship, our Zanu PF party must remain closely connected with the education sector and the teaching fraternity immersed in the party.
“We must never again allow any challenges or differences we may face as a people to separate these two institutions.”
Political analyst Professor Stephen Chan said while the rigging may not happen during voting day itself, it could happen a day before or after polling during vote counting.
“Not all teachers will be part of this group that supports the President. In any case, there will be enough observers and party agents at the elections to ensure that polling day goes well. It’s what happens before polling day, and the nature of the count afterwards, that really matter,” he said.
In their capacities as presiding officers at polling stations, teachers will be in charge of receiving ballots before polling day and will have powers to determine the final outcome after counting and passing on the tallied vote papers and electoral residues to command centres.
Political commentator Rashweat Mukundu expressed concern on the Teachers for ED project ahead of the next elections.
“I think it shows the absurdity of all this personalisation of all these institutions that must be independent and professional but are now politicised, meaning a restriction to exercising free political rights by teachers and various groups that ED is seeking to appropriate to his political campaign for 2023 to retain the presidency.”
“Of course this is a worrying situation in which teachers who are supposed to be election agents and conducting the voting as recruited for Zec are now for ED. How do we have a free and fair election?” he asked.
Mukundu said the opposition and the international community have every reason to question this approach by Mnangagwa in terms of the country’s electoral processes.
“What we are seeing is a dangerous precedent in which everyone in society is ultimately being put in a particular group that supports President ED’s political campaign while those dissenting are essentially targeted for repression,” said Mukundu.