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The joke is on citizens



ELECTION season is in full swing and there is no better evidence of this than a mid-week headline on the front page of a state-controlled newspaper proclaiming: “Nkayi roadworks resume”.

 The road they are referring to is a 15-kilometre stretch of the Bulawayo-Nkayi Road. That highway surely deserves a slot in the Guinness Book of Records.

 Every five years — on the eve of every general election — politicians and bureaucrats sit on a mountain top and share the wonderful news of a highway construction project that never ends. Nkayi Road is the perfect gift — the gift that never stops giving.

After tinkering with a few kilometres of asphalt in front of media cameras just for the optics, the clever chaps jump into their taxpayer-funded luxury vehicles and return to air-conditioned offices while the godforsaken villagers are left to wallow in the dust.

The Bulawayo-Nkayi highway has been “under construction” — in perpetuity — for decades. This is not funny anymore. But the election-related jokes keep mounting. This week, the world woke up to a curious story which has gone viral.

The Times of London reported on the sort of strange happenings that can leave you scratching your head in utter amazement.

“Zimbabwe’s looming general election is set to be its most inclusive yet: the redrawing of electoral boundaries has put voters in Swaziland, the Indian Ocean and even Antarctica,” reported The Times in its opening paragraph, pregnant with satire.

For the Zimbabwean electorate, this is no laughing matter. The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission’s legendary incompetence has finally brought international fame — nay infamy. The tenacious techno sleuths at Team Pachedu revealed that some Zec constituency boundary coordinates are extending as far afield as Antarctica.

Astonishing! Such wild irregularities point to yet another rigged election. Interestingly, opposition CCC leader Nelson Chamisa sounded confident of victory when presenting a Press statement on Thursday.

 Chamisa announced what he termed the five pillars of “Zimbabwe Agenda 2023” which underpin the CCC’s election strategy. Of late, his critics have often remarked that Chamisa does not seem to have a coherent plan for winning an election.

They point to the absence of party structures on the eve of the election, the opposition’s failure to counter Zanu PF’s politics of obstruction which has paralysed CCC-dominated urban councils, and the rapid closure of democratic space by an authoritarian regime.

Chamisa himself acknowledged that the Zanu PF government has banned more than 60 opposition rallies and meetings. He correctly attributed this to a panicky ruling party which is afraid of people power.

 The big question is: What will the opposition do to counter this, beyond complaining? Already, the signs are ominous. High Court judge Never Katiyo brewed a shocker by rejecting opposition legislator Allan Markham’s legitimate demand for Zec to release a copy of the electronic voters’ roll.

Justice Katiyo’s reasoning — if it can be termed that — is highly problematic, not just from a constitutional perspective but even from a basic commonsensical approach. Where on earth has the judge ever seen a general election whose vote register is a secret document?

A voters’ roll is a public document. By refusing to release the electoral register, Zec is not only failing in its constitutional responsibilities but also creating a toxic political environment that will lead to a disputed poll outcome.

 One does not need a PhD in constitutional law to understand this. Legitimate political power is secured through the consent of the governed — not through brazen electoral theft.

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