Zimbabwe elections: Let’s get it right this time round

Opposition Citizens Coalition for Change leader Nelson Chamisa gestures as he is cheered by supporters in Bulawayo. Picture: AFP

Opposition Citizens Coalition for Change leader Nelson Chamisa gestures as he is cheered by supporters in Bulawayo. Picture: AFP

Published Aug 24, 2023


Oliver Shambira

Pretoria - Not too long ago, Limpopo Health MEC Dr Phophi Ramathuba landed in hot water after making disparaging remarks to a Zimbabwean woman at a Bela Bela hospital in her province.

Social media was unrelenting and rebuked her for her insensitivity in taking out her frustration on a hapless woman whose only sin was to wander into her province in search of health care.

There were mixed reactions to her outburst, with one camp on social media rebuking her for going against her Hippocratic Oath as a medical doctor while the other camp backed her, agreeing that the health system was overburdened and foreigners added to the strain.

That cannot be denied, given that the budget her department receives is meant to cater for bona fide citizens.

A supporter of Zimbabwe's ruling party Zanu PF holds up an election campaign poster during a rally. Picture: AFP

But some pointed out that she was wrong and the hospital wasn't the appropriate platform to vent her frustration and address such a sensitive matter.

Migrating to SA was, for many, a painful decision; many families disintegrated.

This country, because of the opportunities it offers, has drawn people from throughout the region. But because of its proximity, Zimbabwe probably has the highest number, officially nearly 1.5 million. The figure could be higher, considering the undocumented sneak in through the porous borders.

Some had to leave their jobs in search of better opportunities this country offers, thanks to its stable currency. Many are law abiding, working legally in the country and paying taxes which help the sitting government provide for its own in the form of grants.

But many are driven into this country by the dire living conditions spawned by a tanking economy back home. Some professionals have endured the ignominy of settling for menial work just to put food on the table. Back home, their earnings were eroded by the high cost of living and inflation which those in power largely blame on the West’s smart sanctions slapped on selected individuals in the ruling elite.

The opposition disagrees. It blames the misgovernance and disregard for the rule of law on the Zanu-PF government which has ruled uninterrupted and been in power since 1980.

Nearly six million registered voters in the nation of almost 17 million people are heading to the polls this week to choose their ruler for the next five years. There were a dozen candidates vying for the presidency but the real contest seemed to be between Zanu-PF leader Emmerson Mnangagwa, 80, and the youthful Citizens Coalition for Change leader, advocate Nelson Chamisa, 45.

During the 2008 elections, the Southern African Development Community (SADC), including SA, did not cover themselves in glory. They sent observers who hurriedly returned home to declare the elections free and fair.

Strongman Robert Mugabe then sat on the results for nearly a month.

Since there was no outright winner, then-opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai was forced to pull out of the rerun, leaving Mugabe to romp to victory in the race in which he had no challenger.

Tsvangirai then cited the killings and brutalisation of his supporters.

Through the mediation of Thabo Mbeki, the foes were coaxed into a government of national unity under which lives improved for a while.

In a post for his church group, the leader of the Prayer Moves Mountains, Pastor Jehu, predicted chaos and urged his flock to refrain from joining protests that would ensue when the results were announced.

“Let’s pray for peaceful elections because the opinion and will of God concerning the current season won’t be acceptable to many people.”

He added: “I encourage you not to heed any calls to be on the streets; many won’t come back home.

“I also encourage you to stock food and veges (sic) when results start coming. It will start by looking very good for those who want to get in and then slowly get overtaken and it will anger urban dwellers.”

Yet another man of God, Emmanuel Makandiwa, of the United Family International Church, put his money on the ruling Zanu-PF, telling his followers that “if Zanu-PF loses, find another man of God”.

Social media was the place to be for the opposition which was not afforded the same airtime as the ruling party on national radio and television. Zanu-PF jingles singing the praises of the party's achievements, including agrarian reform, were the staple diet on radio and television in the run-up to the polls.

In one image, opposition supporters sent a picture of a sumptuous breakfast dish, teasing: “This could be your breakfast if Wednesday you vote right.”

Another image depicted Mnangagwa on a tomb with the words “Rest RIP Zanu (then an expletive)”.

All eyes will be on SA, which has borne the brunt of illegal migration, to lead in guiding the SADC on how to handle its northern neighbour to stem the influx of migrants.

Ramathuba is thus expected to come to the party and, together with the faceless grouping Dudula that has been in the news expressing anti-foreigner sentiments, to exert pressure on their government to do the right thing this time around to keep foreigners off SA shores.

I pray they won’t let the opportunity slip through their fingers.

* Shambira is a Zimbabwean national residing and working in Pretoria, South Africa

** The views expressed do not necessarily reflect the views of IOL or Independent Media.

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