Without Reforms, No Elections: Understanding the concept (Part 1)

By Lloyd Damba
In 2014 after the departure of many of its members namely Tendai Biti, Elton Mangoma, the Madzore Brothers and their followers, at its Fourth Congress the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) resolved to embark on a campaign for electoral reforms and Congress called it the Without Reforms, No Election, (WReNE).
WreNE incorporated results of wide exhaustive consultations with a multiplicity of stakeholders other than political parties and this included the church,Civic Society Organisations, Labour, the Student Movement and citizenry.
Therefore WReNE represented a convergence of the Zimbabwean people and various stakeholders on the critical issues affecting the country’s elections.

WReNE not only was about aspirations of the common man in the streets but was and is an embodiment of the provisions of the Zimbabwean Constitution, International best Practice, the United Nations General Assembly Resolution of 16 December 1966 which Zimbabwe ratified in 1991, the African Union Declaration on Principles Governening Democratic Elections in Africa and the SADC Principles and Guidelines Governing Democratic Elections and several other international legal instruments on elections, which the Zanu PF Government has not been implementing and has failed to do so to this day.

Therefore WReNE represented a convergence of the Zimbabwean people and various stakeholders on the critical issues affecting the country’s elections.

Objectives of WReNE
The core objectives of WReNE were to;
■Create a platform to allow political power to be attained through Peaceful, Democratic and Constitutional means.
■To level the electoral playing field , eliminate the perennial crisis of legitimacy, generate trust in state institutions, and reassert the sovereignty of the people of Zimbabwe and give integrity to the its territory.
■Free and fair electoral systems that generate confidence in its own citizens and eliminate the crisis of legitimacy which is a source of both domestic and foreign confidence in the country leading to economic woes poverty, disease, and calls hatred.
■To ensure the necessary autonomy and complete Independence of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC)and any other subordinate institutions in line with the constitution of Zimbabwe regional and international best practices.
■To ensure that both Zimbabwe’s electoral system and institutions are benchmarked against regional and International best practices.
■To ensure the autonomous and complete Independence of ZEC so that it delivers a free, fair, credible, transparent, democratic, election so that those that win in that manner can kick start an economic recovery program.
■To ensure that the elections are thus held in the letter and spirit of the Zimbabwean laws.

Unpacking the Reforms
1) The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC)
The MDC demanded then under WReNE as it is doing now that the Constitution of Zimbabwe provides for independent Commissions and one such
Key Commission is ZEC.
Therefore the Model preferred by the MDC WReNE was the Independent Model.
Where ZEC would be autonomous and independent from the Excutive and its interference. It has to manage its own budgets and is not accountable to the Minister of Justice and Parliamentary affairs as it is now.
It must report to Parliament, the Judiciary or the Head of State when the need arises to do so.
It must have finacial autonomy.
Framework must be divided into two: Policy formulation and implementation, with each being independent of the other which is double independence.
ii) The Independence and impartiality of ZEC is more compromised now than ever before because 5 of its Commissioners are children of Zanu-PF Politiburo Members. Making the Zimbabwean election a Zanu-PF Show and nothing but just a 5 year formality to return Zanu-PF back into power.

2) Security Sector Involvement i.e , Defence Forces, CIO, Police
Against certain Sections of the Zimbabwean Constitution we have seen the above mentioned, directly involved in the running and conducting of elections and at the same time swearing alligence to the ruling party with impunity.
Whilst at the same they campaign openly for the ruling party unleashing terror and harvesting fear among the electorate rendering the election exercise illegitimate.
These state organs have weaponised the distribution of food aid and agricultural imputs thereby to quash dissent.
ZEC itself has members of the above bodies in its rank and file including the Chief Elections Officer Utwile Silaigwana who has been a thorn under the opposition’s feet and one of the Outstanding Issues of the Global Political Agreement and the Electoral Reforms demanded by the MDC in the GNU.
Silaigwana is a member of the Military whose allegiance is also well known.
The police has been used also to curtail political activities across the country using archaic draconian laws, arbitrary arrests to instill fear and compliance among the citizens.
The CIO of late has been stuffed in ZEC Sub Committes for the sole purpose of manipulating the vote.

3) The State Media
Against Section 61 of the Zimbabwean Constitution the state Broadcaster has been used as an extension of the Zanu PF Information and Publicity Department.
At one time the two mentioned departments were headed by husband and wife Chris Rambo Mutsvangwa and Monica Mutsvagwa.
With Chris Rambo superintending over the party propaganda machinery which in turn was passed over to Monica for final touch ups at government level.
The information churned out is totally biased since the opposition has no right of responding to the vile allegations laid by Zanu-PF.

4)Traditional Leaders
From the colonial times before Independence, the Rhodisian Front of Ian Smith, the UANC of Bishop Abel Muzorewa abused and used these traditional leaders to suppress their subjects.
Not to be outdone the Zanu PF government soon after independence also adopted this position with a double potion, perpetuating this system. To the extent that at one time Chief Charumbira then in his capacity as President of the Chief’s Council declared at a Zanu-PF Conference in Bindura that is Zanu-PF to the core.
These traditional Leaders have now been involved in the violent suppression of their subjects thereby shrinking the democratic space.
In terms of the Zimbabwean Constitution the roles and responsibilities of our Traditional Leaders are clearly Spelt out and as a party we implored then and now for then to be implementated.

5) Voters Roll
Credibility of the Zimbabwean voters has been impugned in several past elections, characterised by missing names even of prominent people within political parties without shame and thousands of other names missing or being disqualified.
Others being transferred Nicodimiusly from their respective polling stations to another which will be in the next constituency but hundreds of kilometres away especially in Rural areas where transport is scarce.
This practice has hauted our elections the morning after as the legitimacy tag continues to evade our politics.
The purpose to chlorinated the voters roll is for Zimbabwe to have an u disputed election ever again.

6) Delimitation Report
The delimitation exercise which is under ZEC has been a thorny issue in our elections since time immemorial.
A lot of gerrymandering is done with boundaries of wards and constituencies that give the ruling Zanu PF party an advantage over other opposition political parties.
There was a time that Gweru Zibagwe and Headlands Constituencies were created just to accommodate losing Zanu-PF heavyweights namely the current President and Didymus Mutasa.

The just ended 2023 election saw the MDC President Douglas Mwonzora go to court over the Delimitation Report which was done without following the necessary constitutional provisions of the country.
The report clearly ignored the 20% threshold, the population, names of ward and constituency boundaries, living it open for total manipulation.
To that end even the parties that participated in the last election failed to challenge the elections in court because they did not even know what hit them or it was connivance with the system, thereby legitimising Zanu-PF’s victory and another 5-year mandate.

Funny enough ZEC itself was divided over their own report with a group openly disagreeing to the report and a minority in agreement.
Some of our comrades within the opposition spheres even sent an amicus to to side with that defective report just to spite the MDC. Strange indeed.
This led to a Zanu PF victory.
Then and Now ZEC must be guided by Section 161 of the Zimbabwean Constitution when it comes to the delimitation of wards and constituencies. Anything outside of this must be considered a nullity by all right thinking Zimbabweans.

To that end even the parties that participated in the last election failed to challenge the elections in court because they did not even know what hit them or it was connivance with the system, thereby legitimising Zanu-PF’s victory and another 5-year mandate.

7) Voting Material
The last 2023 Election, Voting Material in some places and polling stations was only delivered in the middle of the night or in the early hours of the next day.
All this was done to make sure that as many people as possible lose hope and leave the polling stations voluntarily without casting their votes.
Thus WReNE demanded that all Voting material must be delivered a day before voting in all the more than 11 000 polling stations as they are already known by ZEC and that voter education must not be limited only to ZEC by to other stake holders.

Setting the Record Straight
We have seen a lot of media reports concorted only to perpetuate hate and propaganda against the MDC and its President to the extent that our presence have divided NERA and we are trying to hijack a project that does not belong to us.

That is far from the truth let me now dive on how the Without Reforms No Elections (WReNE) mutated into NERA and in all these instances Senator Douglas Mwonzora was serving as Secretary General of the MDC under President Morgan Tsvangirai and as Head of the NERA Secretariat.
WReNE became a rallying call for many political parties to converge and collectively fight for electoral reforms.
*The writer is presidential spokesperson for the Movement for Democratic Change

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