OPPOSITION parties warned yesterday that they would resist attempts by President Emmerson Mnangagwa to railroad them into a general election before the implementation of Sadc-approved election principles and guidelines.
They were reacting to Mnangagwa’s statement last week, where he told his Mozambique counterpart, Filipe Nyusi, that his government was preparing to hold elections in the next five months.
The opposition said they suspected Mnangagwa wants to arm-twist them into an early election before levelling the political playing field to give himself an unfair advantage over his rivals.
They said their fears were further exacerbated by reports that Zanu PF had already deployed military personnel to rural and urban areas to launch campaigns on behalf of the ruling party.
Addressing an MDC Alliance rally in Epworth on the outskirts of Harare yesterday, MDC-T vice-president Nelson Chamisa said they would not enter the race before an audit of the biometric voter registration exercise was done, to ensure the credibility of the voters’ roll, among other demands.
“We must have an uncontested voters’ roll, which we should audit so that we all know who is there,” he said.
“We don’t want to be blinded by talk coming from Mnangagwa, we need a clear roadmap that states how we should go to the elections.
“Mnangagwa knows that we want free and fair elections, but he is not doing what he should do.”
Chamisa said the army should stay away from electoral processes.
MDC-T spokesperson, Obert Gutu said although his party was geared for the polls, they would resist moves to railroad them into participating in a flawed election.
“The issue at hand is that we need reforms first,” he said.
“The military should go back to the barracks and not intimidate our parents in the villages on behalf of Zanu PF.
“That will not give a credible election.
“Traditional leaders must refrain from acting partisan and stick to their jobs, which is leading communities in their diversity.”
In previous elections, the opposition has often accused Zanu PF and its former leader, ex-President Robert Mugabe, of unleashing the military into rural areas to instill fear and force citizens to rally behind the ruling party.
“The State media should be reformed as provided for in the Constitution and we want foreign observers to be allowed in and the secrecy of the vote should be guaranteed,” Gutu said.
“What we have heard at the moment is that people in rural areas are being forced to give to Zanu PF supporters the serial numbers of their voter registration slips.
“This is illegal.”
People’s Democratic Party (PDP) leader, Tendai Biti said any attempts to force the electorate into a flawed poll would be fiercely resisted.
“Elections should be held between July 22 and August 22, 2018, but what is key is what Mnangagwa does between now and then,” he said.
“Chiefs must stay in their palaces without interfering in politics. The army should be professional and not do a coup on Zimbabweans.”
PDP spokesperson, Jacob Mafume said the country was not yet ready for elections.
“We have just had a military action against the military-supported Zanu PF government. What’s there to stop them declaring a win by the opposition as criminality around the ballot box and proceed to arrest the opposition as criminals undermining the ballot?” he asked tongue in cheek.
The parties also demanded the immediate appointment of a credible person to take over as Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) chairperson, following Rita Makarau’s resignation late last year.
MDC spokesperson, Kurauone Chihwayi insisted that political legitimacy would only come through the levelling of the playing field.
“As long as we still have partisan State media, a partisan military and police force, we are in trouble,” he said.
“We are prepared, like never before, but we will not be blinded into not demanding reforms.”
However, Zanu PF commissar, Engelbert Rugeje denied that his party had deployed military personnel into the rural areas, accusing the media of “focusing on minor issues, yet there are important matters that need public attention”.
“You, media people, have a problem; you focus on non-important issues and not look at what I said about peace and unity,” he shot back.
“You want to write things that sell.
“Next time, talk to Cde SK (Zanu PF spokesperson, Simon Khaya Moyo) and not me. I am a trained soldier, an old person and I don’t want to play games with you.
“Listen, you are lucky to have spoken to me. “Next time, don’t call me, just call the spokesperson and ask him.
“Anyway, I did not say that we will use the military, why? We have structures as Zanu PF to campaign for us.”
Acting Zec chairperson, Emnanuel Magade told NewsDay that he had received reports of intimidation of potential voters from various parts of the country and warned parties to exercise restraint during campaigns.
“We have been receiving the reports, but we want to urge those behind it that we don’t want them to intimidate voters because we want our 2018 elections to be free and fair,” he said.
“After receiving the complaints, we met with the ruling and opposition parties over the issue and we have agreed that our elections should be free from intimidation and free from manipulation of electoral processes.
“The serial numbers they are recording have no use during the 2018 harmonised elections.”