Nick Mangwana View From The Diaspora
In Zimbabwe’s harmonised elections in 2013, 6,4 million people were registered to vote, but only 3,4 million did actually vote. This means that nearly half of the people that were registered to vote did not bother to do so. There are many different reasons for this, but there is one we are going to address this week. We will argue that efforts by the opposition to discredit elections by labelling them as “rigged” before they even take place are causing voter apathy among their own voters.
Any action that prevents one from achieving a desired result is called a self-defeating action – some prefer calling that action, shooting oneself in the foot.
Whatever phrase or idiom one chooses doesn’t matter.
What matters is that there are people with a penchant for authoring their own misfortune. Some of those are in the opposition, when they continuously blow their “rigged” vuvuzela.
Instead of people going into the villages and the townships to establish an electorate that is motivated to vote for them, they get themselves preoccupied with silly theories.
Maybe there is too much belief in witchcraft and the occult in our communities that some stop believing that good results come from good organisation and planning.
Certainly not from diversionary tactics which are meant to shield one from exposure of their inadequacies.
But in the “rigged” mantra there is a real victim and that is democracy.
The claims that elections in Zimbabwe are rigged do not only cause unintended harm to the political interests of the opposition, but damages democracy as well.
They leave the electorate with a big sense of political powerlessness in their belief that their destiny is not determined by their behaviour or choices in the ballot booth, but by someone cooking figures in some darkened office somewhere.
This is a contrary effect to that which the opposition desired, it has caused apathy among its own supporters.
Zanu-PF supporters know that elections are a game of numbers and they are always motivated and will go to the polls in numbers.
Opposition supporters have been made to believe that election results are a result of technocratic manipulation.
They can’t be bothered to take part in something which they have been informed that the result has already been pre-determined.
We all recall one opposition leader saying, “we have a cure for Zanu-PF rigging”.
That is good news for the country.
For never again should their be attempts to put the country in a legitimacy crisis because some are claiming that the elections have been rigged.
The only rigging we know is that of the opposition rigging their own chances by these declarations of electoral fraud before every poll.
One of the key questions on a Zanu-PF member application form is whether the prospective member is registered to vote.
If not, then there is a system to make sure that unwanted situation is quickly redressed. This is what we call attention to detail. It is not rigging.
The opposition discourages their own supporters from engaging with mainstream politics.
One can argue that opposition behaviour is killing democracy and popular will. They make voters believe that voting is irrelevant in the determination of who governs them. They corner themselves into a no-win situation.
How can we popularise the people’s will when others are making strenuous efforts to delegitimise it?
That has the effect of illuminating the perceived hopeless of trying to affect a social transformation through the ballot, but everyone should know this reality; there is no other way.
Going to vote is a painful process and the queue does not help.
To fulfil an electoral obligation of voting, one must be persuaded that their effort and their vote will make a difference. If it doesn’t and the result is pre-determined what will be the point?
So, as the opposition carry on their effort to delegitimise the electoral process they should look at the downside risk of their strategy.
There is no single year that Zanu-PF did not assume power because someone has questioned the legitimacy of that incumbency.
On the contrary, all that the said noise has done is to bring suffering to the electorate and cause some of the potential voters to leave the country.
This is why the opposition is now saying we should follow those that left the country with the ballot box wherever they went to.
The decider of an election outcome is the people, and should be the people.
This writer is aware of a number of people that did not bother to attend an interview on learning that the job has already been given to someone and the process is meant to window dress and legitimise pre-determined decisions.
Nobody would blame those that choose not to bother to participate in such a process. It is the same type of reasoning that causes apathy in opposition supporters.
Citizens want to know that they are the decider of their political and economic fate.
At this point, it helps to say that Zanu-PF has a test to pass in Masvingo.
The party has been known to push for all leadership to come from the people.
In fact, this was an overwhelming position of delegates at the 16th People’s Conference in Masvingo. The recent events (coincidentally) in Masvingo spell an effort to take that power away from the people.
This column will not dwell on it much, but the principles of people wanting to know that their destiny is in the hands of participatory democracy holds.
If they think otherwise, they then won’t participate. We don’t agree with anything that hinders democracy. That is not an ideal people went to war for.
At the heart of the national grievance was both the land issue and universal suffrage.
We should not patronise Zimbabweans by telling them and forcing them to adopt our will as theirs, that is contrary to the founding principles of this great nation, but alas we digress.
Back to the opposition hindering voter turnout through their cry-baby antics.
If you channel all your efforts to prove a disconnect between the outcome of an election and the people’s choice, then you might as well forget making a call for people to register to vote.
Why should they bother if there is no link between that vote and the result? Is this not putting your foot in?
Never forget that a lot of Zanu-PF members and supporters almost take support of their party as a religion, Zanu-PF supporters know the efficacy of our elections system.
They believe that every vote counts and any apathetic turnout is letting the party down.
To them, voting is a responsibility they don’t take lightly.
But the opposition voters are convinced that their turnout has no bearing on the election outcome and so it does not take much to dissuade them from bothering.
And yet, when the ballots are counted some people feign shock. What’s shocking about that?
How do you expect to vitalise the interests of your own supporters in an electoral process when you tell them the result is a fait accompli?
In case the opposition political parties are not getting the point, let’s use very simple language; allegations of electoral fraud are killing the interests of your voters from participating in elections.
They strangely wait for an outcome to an election they did not bother to participate in.
Now compare that to a Zanu-PF supporter who flies all the way from Britain to cast their vote, knowing that every vote counts. How can you honestly question how Zanu-PF wins?
There is a complete different attitude and mindsets between the two kind of supporters.
Zanu-PF supporters have a sense of personal responsibility for the outcome of an election of their party retaining or losing power.
Opposition supporters have been bombarded with misinformation and now hold a belief that they have no such responsibility, but it’s all down to a “flawed system”.
Thus they feel no obligation to participate.
Right now a lot of people are applauding NERA, but they don’t realise the psychological damage it is doing to the morale of their supporters.
Zanu-PF supporters are prepared for 2018, the opposition is going on about “ifs and buts”.
And when the moment of reckoning comes, only those who are ready will win. There is absolutely no prize for guessing who that will be.
It can’t be those that spent all their time and energy creating passivity and indifference among their supporters.
Their success will be seen at the ballot, but in this case it is seen by the few ballots that they will get.
Scepticism and cynicism kill enthusiasm.
Some people pay a lot of money to motivators who to come and generate a fervour in their people.
But if you keep on demoralising your own people with cries of an unfair playing field, do not complain when you get the same result you have been getting for years.
Endorse the process and your people will come out.