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Analysts, experts cast dark shadow ahead of elections, say Zimbabwe still miles away from free and fair polls

By Reason Razao | Senior Reporter

POLITICAL and economic analysts have predicted doom ahead of the general election saying the election process has been marred by suppression of civic space, liberties and controversies around the delimitation boundaries.

Speaking on Al Jazeera’s Inside Story, an analytical episode that looked at upcoming elections, political analyst Tendai Mbofana said the road to election has not been free and fair.

Mbofana cited challenges faced by the opposition parties including the police barring many of its numerous rallies.

“So far the elections do not seem free and fair at all, let us remember the election is not an event it’s a process so this election that we are headed towards in August started at the end of the previous election in 2018,” he said.

“For the past five years what we have seen has not been good does not augur well for a free, fair and credible election.

“We have seen  that the opposition has not been allowed to campaign freely, most of their rallies where they go out to campaign to the public have been barred or banned most of the time they have not been given clearance by the police,” he added.

Mbofana underscored the challenges that will likely arise from the contests emanating from Zimbabwe Electoral Commission’s (ZEC) delimitation report.

“We have also seen that the electoral commission itself there has been of-late so many controversies surrounding the delimitation of the boundaries that are used in the constituencies.

“We find that in urban areas that are predominantly known as opposition strongholds some of them have been merged such that the opposition has less likelihood of getting seats in urban areas.

“Much more constituencies have been created and already we are seeing unfairness in the whole process.”

In terms of media coverage Mbofana said the state controlled media has in the past five years been delegitimizing the opposition while functioning as an extension of Zanu PF.

“On state media all we hear are reports on how the President is performing well and how the Zanu PF party is doing fundamental development and yet the opposition is hardly covered in the state media.

“If you are to hear anything about the opposition they are being labelled as sell-outs, as traitors, as unpatriotic, as people who have caused problems, every conceivable problem that Zimbabwe has faced is perceived as being the creation of the opposition supposedly working with foreign agents such as Western countries.

“We have also seen a lot of political violence especially in the past year or so with a lot of opposition supporters being beaten up. We have heard of reports of abductions of opposition members, senior members including a parliamentary woman who was allegedly abducted and no one has been held accountable for that.”

Mbofana also made reference to opposition legislator Job Sikhala who has been in pre-trial detention for over a year.

Economist Vince Musewe said the election system in Zimbabwe has not changed since 1980 and has been run like a military exercise.

“The institutions around the elections are still the ones that are in charge of the processing of the office, so the confidence levels are very low because of the patronage system we have.

“Obviously adding to that is the issue of the economy and that people are really struggling. They are not looking forward to any elections because they are not expecting significant change,” said Musewe

Piers Pigou, head of Southern Africa Programme, Institute for Security Studies said there is a worrying concern of military presence in the administration of the country in the last five years.

“There is clearly a growth since the 2017 military coup of military interest in terms of personnel being deployed into the economic sector and into areas of the administration and political sector.”

Pigou said the presence of the army in the governance  is a unique Zimbabwean version of military influence adding that there are clear indicators of military political partisanship towards Zanu PF.

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