Controversy Erupts Over Electoral Security Concerns Amidst Government’s Deployment Plans.
By Farai D Hove | ZimEye | Tensions have escalated in Zimbabwe as the nation grapples with conflicting narratives surrounding electoral security. The Ministry of Information, Publicity, and Broadcasting Services’ Permanent Secretary, Ndavaningi “Nick” Mangwana, has ignited a fierce debate by characterizing the opposition’s call for citizens to “defend the vote” as a potential threat to peace.
However, a deeper examination of recent developments casts doubt on Mangwana’s assertions. Government ruling party Spokesman Christopher Mutsvangwa has since December 2017 publicly and repeatedly announced that the government plans to deploy not only troublemakers but soldiers to alter the election results (click to watch video). This announcement directly contradicts Mangwana’s claim that the “defend the vote” initiative poses a threat to peace.
Between December 15, 2017, and August 5, 2023, the government has repeatedly announced and executed the deployment of soldiers and troublemakers to change election results. This was first launched by Mutsvangwa’s statement before foreign diplomats in Harare on 15 December 2017 as he vividly outlined the deployment of soldiers for this purpose, a plan now being resurrected for the upcoming 2023 polls. “That election we shall win on a margin bigger than the one we did in 1980… We shall work hard with the ZDF, the best army in the world, ” said ZANU PF spokesperson Christopher Mutsvangwa, clearly announcing before foreign diplomats in Harare the deployment of soldiers to change election results which operation was witnessed on 1st August 2018 and has now been rehashed for the 2023 polls. After soldiers had executed their first operation on 1 August 2018, the following day, Vice President Constantino Chiwenga shifted the blame to accuse Nelson Chamisa’s party, as he said the people who fired bullets on the innocent civilians were Chamisa’s hooligans, and when pressed with questions, he shifted to say that the bullets were produced by teargas canisters. After the Motlanthe led Commission was convened to investigate the criminals behind the electoral violence, and legislator and Chamisa deputy, Tendai Biti was forcibly deported from Zambia with the help of former president Edgar Lungu, while blaming Biti to be the violence perpetrator, 7 months later, ZANU PF President, Emmerson Mnangagwa himself would announce to parliament that he is the one who deployed the soldiers.
The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission is since March 2018 controlled by the military and Zimbabwe National Army Major Utloile Silaigwana is ZEC’s Chief Elections Officer. ZEC’s Head of Security, Mavis Matsanga is a serving Central Intelligence Organisation Director and she reports straight to CIO Director General Isaac Moyo.
The Head of Security at @ZECzim, Mavis Matsanga is a serving CIO Director. Her husband is a lecturer at UZ. Mavis Matsanga straight to DG Isaac Moyo. Her father was a CIO and her family comes from Rusape. She lives near Patrick Chinamasa's house which recently got burnt down. pic.twitter.com/yKcD99bbHS
— ZimEye (@ZimEye) January 27, 2023
Beyond the militarization, the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission is at a majority span manned by children of top ZANU PF leaders with at least 5 of the 9 commissioners being kids of ZANU PF politburo and central committee members of the incumbent Emmerson Mnangagwa’s headship (see video of undercover discussion with ZEC’s chairperson Priscilla Chigumba.)
Aside this development, are even more sophisticated operations run on behalf of the government by celebrated journalist Hopewell Chin’ono (and George-Charamba-contender for the ministry job) who for a period of over 6 years has been using award-winning-anti-corruption badge to discredit Nelson Chamisa and the entire civil society as people who have been bribed by western embassies, claims with which he leaked addresses of safe houses for torture victims to Constantino Chiwenga and as late as 6 July 2023 would falsely suggest that the entire civil society has been bribed (click here for the 17 min video compilation.) So effective has this method been that Charamba fearing for his job, ended up revealing to the public how Chin’ono leaked the tortured activist’s addresses to the government in order to expose Chinono among his support base in the opposition (video).
Meanwhile, the opposition party, CCC, has been urging its supporters to remain at polling stations until votes are counted and results posted, aiming to guard against possible rigging. This stance has ignited a clash of perspectives between those who believe in ensuring the integrity of the election process and those advocating for maintaining peace and stability.
In response to criticism, Mangwana condemned the call to defend votes, arguing that it could lead to potential conflicts at polling stations. However, supporters of the CCC emphasize that there is no law against waiting for election results, pointing to past peaceful rallies with large crowds as evidence of the potential for order.
Renowned novelist Tsitsi Dangarembga has questioned the motives behind discouraging the defense of the vote, while citizens like Nyasha Gwata have raised concerns about the country’s high unemployment rate, which affects the feasibility of engaging in business activities as Mangwana suggests.
The controversy comes at a crucial time, with elections approaching and citizens grappling with the complex balance between safeguarding democratic processes and maintaining peace. As the discourse unfolds, Zimbabwe’s future remains uncertain, hinging on the delicate balance between electoral security and civil order.