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Friday, 8 March 2013

Beware of the 'Ides of March'

By Blessing Vava
It is now less than 8 days before the holding of Zimbabwes second constitutional referendum since the 2000 one when the citizens were again asked to vote yes/no to the Chidyausiku draft. With the remaining days, events on the ground   indicate that the plebeians are not ready for the plebiscite which the inclusive rulers are forcing despite the short space of time. Something mysterious, about the month of March. On 17 March 1983 General Walls appealed to the Queen in England to nullify the outcome of the 1980 elections because ‘Mugabe had used violence.’ ZANU PF tasted its first electoral defeat on the 29th of March 2008. In this context it is the 16th of March, the eve of it the 15th being the Ides of March, a bad day in the history of the Romans. The Ides of March is forever linked with the 44 B.C. assassination of Julius Caesar, and with prophecies of doom. The Roman Emperor had been foretold about the Ides of March by the soothsayer on the 15th of February, The Fest of Lupercalia, a festival meant to keep out evil in the land. According to the Roman scrolls, the Ides of March was mostly notably used as a deadline for settling debts.

Although, I grew up not a superstitious being, maybe it is the umbilical attachment of my forefathers with Chipinge, a place where many bizarre stories of witchdoctors are flooded in the grape vineyard. It is again the 15th, oh sorry the 16th of the Month of March Zimbabweans are being gang-raped by the few elite rulers to vote for a document which has not been circulated to the people of Zimbabwe. Strange isnt it? Really strange!!! Im indeed superstitious these two days are an omen to the people of Zimbabwe. Ironically the government gazetted the holding of the referendum on the 15th of February for the 16th of March. Unlike Julius Caesar, the significance of these days and coincidence is spelling doom both for the politicians and the people of Zimbabwe. It is the 15th of February and the 16th of March which are of worry.  If, on the 16th of March the people of Zimbabwe accept to be tricked by politicians into voting YES then its disaster for the country spelling the return to medieval autocracy. If they decide to vote NO, its a victory for the people and a disaster to politicians signalling a people determined to shape their own destiny.

The historical illustrations are just but metaphorical on the spells befalling our great nation.      I speak of the 16th of March with a heavy heart, sombre and concerned.  The date is too near, so near for the people of Zimbabwe to make a decision whether they like the draft or not. To the rulers, the purpose of this referendum is for Zimbabweans to rubber stamp their bad constitution and go for an election. It’s so shocking that they are telling the people to Vote Yes without giving them the draft so that they scrutinise for themselves what is contained in that draft. The COPAC process by all standards has failed both the legitimacy and democratic test. Only 90 000 copies of the draft copies were distributed to party supporters in a population of more than 13 million Zimbabweans. In Kenya, with a population of 41 million, 25 million copies of its proposed draft were distributed and the citizens were given six months before they went for a referendum in 2007. Whereas in my mothers land, the ‘inclusive’ rulers are giving us 3 weeks to make a decision on something we have not seen.  What then is the purpose of the referendum when almost 90% of the voting population are still in the dark and yet the writers of the draft are telling us to vote yes. This is a vote NO!

Im sceptical on how this referendum is being conducted; the run-up phase has not been a free and fair environment for the credibility of the holding of the referendum. Whereas there is an election to follow, this referendum is an important phase in our country. It is much more important than a national election. We are not voting for individuals because individuals come and go. We are voting for the adoption of the supreme law of the land, a document for posterity, therefore its importance.

Worryingly,  credibility and legitimacy remains in doubt. Equally, this referendum is a test mechanism on the preparedness and credibility of the coming polls. The media is not reporting fairly on those opposing the draft like the NCA, preferring to give much coverage to the three political parties campaigning for their document they authored. The High Court appeal by the NCA seeking an extension of the referendum date was thrown out the court did not even assess the merits of the matter despite empirical evidence on the ground that the draft is a mysterious document amongst Zimbabweans. It is as if its a privilege to access it. The High Court chose to tell the NCA that the president cannot be questioned by the court. How horrible!!

We also have recorded cases of meetings to discuss about the constitution being banned the police, funny and laughable enough, even Tsvangirai another critical player in this YES campaign was told to stop his meeting in Highfield a few days ago. As for ZEC, the institution has neither reformed nor transformed despite it being part of the reasons why this inclusive government was incepted. It was about reforms, and yet it is still the same faces, same legislation running this referendum synonymous to Mugabes reshuffling of cabinet.  ZEC is being run by its deputy, an acting chairperson, a discredited character Joyce Kazembe, a key player in the 2000, 2002, 2005 and 2008 election. Apart from her flowery CV, Kazembe is a well known ZANU PF card carrying activist and is not qualified for the job period! After the controversial resignation of Justice Mutambanengwe, the normal process was supposed to be his immediate replacement, basing on the fact that there was an imminent referendum and a pending election.  That never happened. The post of ZEC chairperson is clearly stipulated that the person has to be a Judge or a retired Judge or a lawyer with at least 7 years of practising of which Sister Joyce is neither of the three nor does she have a law background save for her stint with the little known Women in Law and Development in Africa (WiLDAF). So the credibility of this process is compromised as it is being run by an unqualified and compromised individual at the same time. Also the decision to suspend the voters roll in this referendum is suspicious.  They are cleverly hiding the voters roll because they were not prepared for this poll and it also opens space for rigging which is now imminent. In the past we have had cases of multiple voting, staffing of ballots something which is now looming as we are approaching the referendum. Clearly there is no guarantee that this process will be credible and the votes will not be accounted for. Even the reason to print 12 million ballot papers at the expense of printing the draft for circulation is unreasonable and suspicious in a population with approximately 7million inhabitants above the legal age of majority. The voting patterns since 1980, logically will tell you that we will never have such a turnout unless minors are part of the electoral process.  Whereas the last two elections, the 2002 presidential,  and the last 2008 poll figures do not justify the printing of 12million ballot papers. In 2002, the total vote cast was 3.048.891, with a registered voters roll of 5.607.795, with the voting age having a population of 5.615,938, the total population for the country was 11.365,366. Compared to the last election in 2008, it had the following figures: total vote count was 2. 514,750, those registered were 5.934,768, voting age was 5.320,015 with a total population for the country being 12.311,430. Basing on these statistics it does not justify the printing of 12 million ballot papers. For what? Rigging maybe!

Running the referendum illegally-ZANU PF apologist Joyce Kazembe
In a nutshell, judging from a closer assessment of the attendance of people in the COPAC campaign meetings disguised as an outreach it no longer needs Angel Gabriel to tell you that the referendum will be marred by apathy and a low turnout and by any standards will be a sign to politicians that the people of Zimbabwe are not happy.

Blessing ‘Vuvuzela’ Vava is in the NCA Media and Publicity Take Charge Campaign Technical Committee. He writes from Chipinge and can be contacted on blessingvava@gmail.com