A commissioner at the under-fire Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) has ignited a furore on microblogging site Twitter by “liking” a tweet denigrating opposition leader Nelson Chamisa of the MDC.
Zec commissioner Natsai Mushonga stirred the hornet’s nest on Monday evening after she “liked” a tweet which read “mediocrity is when you think a chap who has never run a tuckshop can suddenly lead 17 million people. Dream on.”
The post was poking fun at Chamisa, who has no known entrepreneurial credentials.
The 40-year-old MDC leader joined the MDC in its formative days as a member of its youth wing, rising through the ranks to assume its leadership following the death of party founder, Morgan Tsvangirai, in February.
On July 30, Chamisa will face President Emmerson Mnangagwa of Zanu PF, as the MDC Alliance’s presidential candidate.
Following Mushonga’s “like”, one Fredo immediately picked it up and posted: “Zec is supposed to be neutral, but sadly it’s clearly not!! We have a long way to go”.
From then on, it was wave after wave of unrestrained tweets dismissing her decision to take sides in a match she is expected to be the referee.
“You liked that tweet showing you are biased and can you do the right thing by stepping down. We no longer have faith in you,” said Kudakwashe.
Mushonga fought back, insisting she acted on humour.
“I liked the humour of it! Our two presidential candidates have obviously shown lots of leadership,” she said.
However, it did little to quench the rising tempers.
While some felt Mushonga was entitled to her own opinion, others felt that her position called on her to be beyond reproach ahead of make-or-break election scheduled for next month.
“In a soccer match, a referee maybe supporting one of the teams but is he allowed to publicly endorse another team?” questioned Africa Elects.
“Why should a referee celebrate when one team scores?” Fredo joined in.
A P Matshaba-Hove said Mushonga’s actions should not be taken lightly.
“?Mediocrity is when you expect an official who reveals partiality in public to be impartial behind closed doors with election results!!! I bet she won’t stomach announcing Chamisa as the winner.”
The affable Zec commissioner remained resolute on her belief that she had not done anything wrong.
“But I didn’t see a name on the tweet and for sure among the 130 candidates there are some who have not owned and ran a tuckshop successfully. Thought good point and liked tweet. Good humour!”
But even Zanu PF proponent mmatigari was not convinced.
“@Nmasivanda how could you? Zimbabweans trust you and you’re expected to be non-partisan, Problem with our fellow black folks is they can easily sell people’s struggles for 30 pieces of silver. As long as you and your family are ok the rest can go to hell. Shame on you fake Comm.”
P. Matshaba-Hove? added: “A commission supervised by partial people can never be impartial. How can a commissioner like a tweet which denigrates another competitor guarantee a free and fair election? Even if the election is free and fair, will the results be a true representation of the people’s choice?”
William Zambezi called on Mushonga to recuse herself.
“So that commissioner Mushonga of Zec likes Trevor tweet that @nelsonchamisa cannot be a leader since he has never run a tuckshop, No free election, we are wasting our time.”
Mushonga, however, found support from Shelton Nhamoinesu.
“We all make mistakes. I will personally give @Nmasivanda Comm Mushonga the benefit of the doubt because she’s been extremely helpful here on Twitter with comprehensive and impartial responses to questions. On 20 May, she actually liked a tweet in which I condemned Junta for 2008!”
Wittingly or unwittingly, Mushonga’s actions play into the hands of critics who have been raising questions about the integrity of the commission.
Zec’s impartiality has for long been on shaky ground for making decisions that seem to favour Zanu PF.
This has given rise to calls by the opposition that commissioners must be persons of unparalleled integrity and solid impartiality to end Zimbabwe’s sad and unfortunate history of disputed and rigged elections.