The Senate Elections.
The MDC will meet next week to agree on a position regarding the Senate elections now due for the 26th November 2005. We have been debating this for some weeks since the Parliament voted to adopt the required constitutional amendments to bring the Senate back into existence.
Many have thought that we were dithering - but in fact we are a genuine democratic movement and what we have been doing is debating the issue quite vigorously amongst ourselves. Our leadership is divided on the issue - those who live in areas where we can win seats, want to run, others are opposed. I fall into the latter category. I have been opposed to fighting the Senate seats since the debate was initiated at a National Executive meeting last month.
This is another tough decision for the MDC - we are after all, the only real democrats in Zimbabwe and fighting elections is the reason for our existence. In addition this represents democratic space and it is argued that we should be moving into this space even if we were opposed to the creation of the Senate in the first place.
I will be away for the National Council meeting at which this decision will be taken and of course will fully support any decision taken - but I still feel we should boycott the election and urge all Zimbabweans to simply stay away from the polls. My reasons for thinking this way is as follows: -
1. We have steadfastly apposed the piecemeal reform of the national constitution. We apposed this amendment from the start - we cannot now go into the contest to try and obtain Senate seats for MDC candidates.
2. The formation of the Senate and this election process is irrelevant to the resolution of the political and economic crisis that now faces the country.
3. The Ministry of Finance has asked for Z$250 billion to fund the election and to run the Senate for the remaining two months of 2005. This at a time when inflation and government spending is spiraling out of control and the State is unable to meet the essential needs of our people.
4. The Senate creates yet another level of Government in an already cumbersome and top-heavy system. It does nothing to improve decision-making or to reduce expenditure - in fact it makes matters worse.
5. All decisions will continue to be made by a small coterie of old men around Mugabe and the Senate will simply be a refuge for failed politicians.
6. The real priorities of the country are to provide food, fuel, jobs, better health and education services and the full restoration of all our economic, political and human rights.
Instead of this Senate election we should be demanding that: -
a) Zanu PF accepts that they have failed the country, that they have no solutions to our crisis and cannot meet our needs as a nation.
b) Instead of elections for a useless Senate, we should demand that Zanu comes to the table for national talks to resolve how we are going to overcome our real problems and to agree on a totally new Constitutional basis for the future.
Aside from the above arguments lets look at the conditions under which this so called election will be held.
They have already carefully manipulated the boundaries of all Senate seats - minimizing the influence of the urban population and ensuring control over the outcome in the majority of seats.
They have disenfranchised hundred of thousands of existing voters through the constitutional amendments adopted at the same time as the creation of the Senate. They have also removed up to a quarter of the urban population under the guise of "Murambatsvina" and dumped them in the rural areas where they are totally dependent on the State for survival.
All the mechanisms used to defraud the electorate in previous elections - the manipulated voters roll with millions of dead and missing voters, the control of the whole process by military and security agencies and the politically aligned Registrar Generals Office, are still in place.
The restrictions on the media, the control of all State media and the majority of the private media are tighter than ever. The propaganda machine is in full swing and will be used to campaign against all opposition. In addition there is total control over all political activity on the ground including rallies, meetings, demonstrations and any other normal forms of freedom of expression.
There is very little food in the country and what is available is totally controlled by the State and the security apparatus. This includes military control of the Grain Marketing Board. Food will be used as a political weapon and following "Murambatsvina" there can be few communities who do not now believe that any group voting against Zanu PF will be subjected to penalties, even starvation and the destruction of their homes and livelihood. Is it appreciated outside Zimbabwe that the destruction of the urban homes and small businesses is continuing unabated?
Under these circumstances to ask the MDC support base to come out and campaign, to be beaten and identified for post election retribution and when all that has been done, to have the election stolen from them again, is just too much. We need to say to Zanu PF as a Nation that enough is enough - we are tired of your games. Come to the table and talk to all of us about how we want to be governed in the future and what we need to do to start a recovery in our economy. We will no longer dance to your tune.
The world knows, as does Zanu PF, that in any free and fair election conducted under normal democratic rules, that the MDC would win nearly all seats in any election. Frankly I cannot see Zanu being safe in any part of the country. To go through what is an expensive and elaborate electoral farce just to be humiliated and then fail to resolve any of the real problems we face, is just not an option. We have more important work to do - like preparing for a post Zanu PF future that must surely be just around the corner. Eddie Cross
Bulawayo, 8th October 2005Zimbabwe, ,