2018 Elections: nomination court and associated events

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By Seewell Mashizha

So the die is cast and we now know who is in the mix. From now henceforth, each successive day leads inexorably to the zenith and the zenith is the immediate aftermath of July 30, the day we get to know how the electorate has dealt with each and every candidate. Meanwhile, people can begin to lick their lips, rub their hands together and even chuckle in anticipation.

To date, some jokers in the pack have fallen by the wayside. The initial pomp and ceremony that went with the announcement of their intention to enter the 2018 political melee has all but evaporated now. The day after is always one for facing the truth in the full light of day.

Last April a daily ran a story on perennial presidential aspirant, the inimitably rustic Egypt Dzinemunhenzva proudly announcing that he had raised the USD1000 deposit fee for his entry into the 2018 presidential race. Dzinemunhenzva appeared to think that this was quite a remarkable feat. Looking suave in a fancy jacket and tie that gave him the look of a worldly cosmopolitan, Dzinemunhenzva enthused, “I will contest, and about the money, I have the $1 000 required by the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission for all presidential candidates.”

Sounding in control and even expansive, Dzinemunhenzva went on to say, “My party will also contest in senatorial, parliamentary and council elections this year. We are now receiving CVs and would like to inform all our party members willing to contest to submit their CVs before May 7.”

Insisting on police clearance for all prospective African National Party (ANP) candidates, Dzinemunhenzva said, “We don’t want criminals and people who are corrupt, people wishing to contest should have a clean record.” Regarding this phenomenon, all fair-minded people must allow that Dzinemunhenzva has a point.

After vowing to topple Mnangagwa, Dzinemunhenzva, predictably, quit the presidential race not so long after coming out guns blazing. Recent reports indicate that Egypt Dzinemunhenzva, leader of the Forces for the Liberation Organisation of Africa National Party (FLOANP) has opted to fight for a seat in the national assembly.

After successfully submitting his nomination papers Dzinemunhenzva explained,

“This year is different. I will contest the parliamentary seat for Wedza North constituency.

“I decided to shelve my presidential aspirations due to a number of reasons which include disloyalty from some of my party members. This is the only time I will contest for such a seat. Come next elections, I will be back as a presidential candidate for my party and we will win without doubt.”  

We hear that Dumiso Dabengwa has thrown his weight behind Nelson Chamisa’s candidacy for the office of President. In turn, his ZAPU has been allocated two seats by the MDC Alliance. But is this ‘agreement’ worth the paper that it is written on? Dabengwa is an icon but not much of a politician. In the 2013 harmonised elections his party performed quite dismally and he even more dismally, with a tally of 25 416 votes, a mere 0, 74% of the total votes cast. Hardly the stuff to bank on when the going gets tough.

One is dismayed by the lack of vigilance of a party whose organising secretary could go into a Harare internet café ostensibly to prepare for his party’s national consultative assembly and thereafter go away without signing out. The result was that an important party political document, warts and all, was left there unprotected and therefore with open access to whoever happened to stumble on it. How safe would national affairs be in the hands of such a party?

Welshman Ncube’s MDC party which in 2013 was always a very distant third with first and second slot changing hands between ZANU-PF and MDC-T was treated in a rather cavalier fashion on nomination day. Quite a few of the seats the MDC had initially been promised went missing only to re-appear as MDC Chamisa seats. Probably aware of possible post-election permutations, Chamisa used the opportunity to cut Welshman Ncube to size and show him who is boss.

As for the loquacious Tendai Biti who has no real party to speak of given that his People’s Democratic party (PDP) is just a nominal party, the shriller he sounds the more desperate for a meaningful home he is. His quarrelsome nature knows no boundaries. Without saying so explicitly, Biti contends that only Chamisa and he himself are the material that presidential candidates are made of. He dismisses Elton Mangoma as someone who can only be a good Member of Parliament and nothing else. The tactless Biti is positioning himself for possible appointment to a Chamisa cabinet if things should go that way. Interestingly, the returned Tafadzwa Musekiwa, told a rally not too long ago that Chamisa had told him that he would have a problem coming up with a competent cabinet if he came to power. That cannot be complimentary to anyone including the likes of Biti, not even with a very elastic stretch of the imagination.

“Kutamba nepfungwa dzevanhu” is a Shona idiom that is caustic against those who take the people lightly and do twists and turns based on the assumption that no one will notice and that they probably are too obtuse to notice anyway. This is the feeling that one gets when considering the cornucopia of opposition party protestations aimed at ZEC and the work that it does.

ZEC is a product of Parliament, agitated for in Parliament by the MDC formations and acceded to by ZANU-PF and consequently signed into law by Robert Mugabe as incumbent president at the time. It was jointly agreed that there be an independent body set to replace the Independent Electoral Commission and to run the country’s election. The parties represented in parliament forwarded the names of people they believed could act independently according to the law and not be swayed one way or the other, even by their sponsors. Twelve names were recommended to the President and he appointed nine of these to ZEC. To hear opposition parties speak you would not think that they too were in the act of setting up ZEC or that they seconded people to it. Now everyone in ZEC is ZANU-PF.

In recent times the truth has often been the victim of populist activism and politics. People in Harare were gathered at Africa Unity Square and encouraged to participate in a mammoth march against ZEC, the fact that Chamisa’s party had recently acceded to and influenced much of the content of the amendments made to the electoral law. Chamisa tried to make the whole thing sound like a very noble venture to be participating in and with typical disdain for the intelligence of the masses, he told the marchers that what was at stake being a matter of regulations only did not require any parliamentary process. And the faithful sycophants in his audiences shouted themselves hoarse about making the country ungovernable and marching every week if necessary. Now there is a deafening silence regarding all that because the MDC Alliance has willy-nilly exposed itself as an organisation bent on subverting the independence of ZEC.

We did say in this column and in anticipation of the 2018 elections that the country’s silly season in politics was with us once again. This has proved not to have been an overstatement. Some pronouncements by some candidates are quite mind-boggling. What with Dzinemunhenzva saying that Zimbabwe can dispense with the world’s second –largest economy and that if he attains power his party would influence a reversal of the mega deals with China. Dzinemunhenzva is not alone in thinking this way. In the recent past, Chamisa expressed similar thoughts.

Sometime in 2011, Arthur Mutambara as Deputy Prime Minister in the Government of National Unity (GNU) in response to a question in parliament from Zaka West MP, Festus Dumbu (MDC-T) expressed the view that Zimbabweans should not criticise the Chinese on behalf of Europeans. This is antithetical to the knee-jerk responses to the Chinese by the likes of Dzinemunhenzva and Chamisa.

Mutambara advised that no one should fight the Chinese on behalf of the Americans or the Europeans. In his words, “Most of the criticisms of the Chinese in Africa are initiated by their competitors from Europe and Americans. Africans are being used to do the bidding for them.”

Mutambara correctly observed that China is the future and that a time will come when a company that is not in China is not global.

Going forward, the content and substance of the political utterances we are subjected to should be what matters. Of course other things will also engage our attention – including the record number of presidential candidates – all 23 of them!

Whereas Biti, garrulous as usual, thinks the increased number of aspiring presidents is due to Mnangagwa’s lack of stature, the undeniable fact is that people now find it less-daunting to participate in the country’s political contestation – a plus for democracy in Zimbabwe!