Zimbabwe is in the homestretch towards its harmonised elections, that quinquennial political jamboree which, like all other shindigs, is the ultimate expression of power, lust and passion.
Elections in Zimbabwe have been known to produce the worst in us. They have known to produce the best in us.
The power, passion and lusts; the good, bad and the ugly that attend to our elections all bear testimony to the seriousness that Zimbabweans attach to the process.
And to be fair, Zimbabweans may actually not be most passionate in the game: there are places on earth where passion has flowed crimson in bloody intercourses that have left societies with deep, gushing wounds.
Or, think of the elections as some kind of extravagant political fete, or better still like a football World Cup.
If we are to take the analogy of football further, political parties and contestants make the field of players in the process of outplaying each other to claim the ultimate trophy prize.
Zimbabwe’s elections are going to be held on July 30.
Here we have thousands of individual participants competing at different levels, the most important of which, no doubt, is the Presidential election.
Calculations are that there are a total of 40 000 people vying for one political office or the other.
There are 23 contestants vying for President.
Those who want to simplify the matter want to frame the Presidential election as a two-horse race between incumbent President Mnangagwa and the opposition MDC Alliance.
The reality, though, is that each one of the 23 candidates is capable of winning it.
More pithily, Nelson Chamisa is one of the 22 candidates challenging an incumbent that is in a strong position by virtue of not only incumbency but also organically strong.
Zanu-PF post-2017 when it changed guard from former president Mugabe, has undergone renewal and experiencing fresh prospects after years of sterility.
On the other hand, the MDC that Nelson Chamisa inherited from Morgan Tsvangirai is in decline, faced with dwindling fortunes and resource constraints.
For his own part, Chamisa – aged only 40 – is inexperienced and is grappling with control over the opposition party that has actually splintered under his watch.
These and other factors have made the election something to watch.
The players are not having it easy.
In particular, the opposition has decided it will not focus on the ball but on the referee.
The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) is the independent constitutional body mandated to run elections in Zimbabwe.
Naturally, playing arbiter in a contest like this – and Zimbabwe has had numerous contested matches – is a tricky assignment.
However, the opposition has apparently decided that it will make life more difficult for the body.
Opposition has begun throwing tantrums and pointing fingers at ZEC.
The MDC Alliance, the outfit that Nelson Chamisa is leading, is throwing toys out of the pram.
The alliance is threatening to boycott elections if its demands are not met.
The demands, such as questioning the layout of the ballot paper, have been deemed as frivolous.
On the other hand, lawyers representing the Alliance such as Tendai Biti, have decided to clog the courts with numerous applications relating to the process, all in a deliberate effort to wear down and frustrate ZEC.
The lawfare and litigation is also meant to distract ZEC and players on the other side from the ball.
The irony is that, for the likes of Biti, where it matters the most, they have been found wanting.
MDC Alliance rallies, without their star in Chamisa, who has clearly been overstretched, have attracted paltry crowds.
At the weekend, Biti – a whole Alliance principal – addressed a handful of supporters in Harare East while his rival Terrence Mukupe, a junior member in Zanu-PF, attracted mammoth numbers.
Further, Zanu-PF’s Vice Presidents have also addressed good crowds on the campaign trail.
One has the feeling that the MDC Alliance is a one-man team. Pity, too, that the same man lacks depth of character and talent.
Hence the focus on playing the referee.
Jameson Timba, Chamisa’s chief election agent, at the weekend provided a good specimen on how to play the ref and not the ball.
He charged: “ZEC is fooling not only the MDC Alliance but Zimbabweans in general, they are fooling the international community that there is commitment to ensure free and fair elections because what is obtaining has left us wondering who is in charge of elections, is ZEC in charge and who is in charge of ZEC? So we are saying we must stop (ZEC chairperson Priscilla) Chigumba because we have said it is either ZEC reforms or there is no election.”
He continued: “Government has seconded to ZEC a team of Chinese BVR [Biometric Voter Registration] & cyber experts from the People’s Liberation Army linked to a top Chinese university. Their remit is to manipulate the voters’ roll through shadowy & virtual polling stations and fake voters.”
Timba is none other than the guy who lost in Mt Pleasant constituency in 2013 and claimed that West Africans had been bussed in to inflate his rival’s vote.
The allegations were never proved.
Nor did they stand the test of the courts.
Biti represented him.
A quick dissection of Timba’s statements will show how shallow and puerile he and the MDC Alliance are as they seek to divert attention from their failures on the ground to bring vexatious questions around who is in charge of elections.
ZEC is a constitutional body operating within the country’s laws and regulations as passed by the Legislature.
Raising questions about its composition and conduct at this time is largely malicious given the fact that the body has actually undergone a lot of changes meant to foster transparency.
It is ironic that the opposition have actually gone on to abuse their privileges and qualified access to the body to try to usurp its powers and obstruct its operations.
Claims about Chinese experts and fake voters only rise to the level of nonsense previously heard about mutating ballots and claims about a shadowy Israeli company called Nikuv which never stood scrutiny.
And, oh yes, it is the same low level nonsense about West African voters being ferried by Zupco buses to vote in the Mt Pleasant suburb of Harare.
Just it is what happens when players lose sight of the ball and begin to play the ref.