THINK tank, Institute for Security Studies Africa, says disputed polls are brewing in Zimbabwe as the current election regulatory framework falls short in conforming to the regional guidelines.
Zimbabwe heads into elections next month to elect members of the national assembly, council, and the President.
Zanu PF leader President Emmerson Mnangagwa and CCC’s Nelson Chamisa will be the main protagonists.
Mnangagwa and Chamisa were key players in the 2018 disputed polls that had to be settled in the Constitutional Court after the latter cried foul alleging rigging and electoral malpractice.
In a statement, ISS said current conditions in Zimbabwe paint a gloomy picture as far as the electoral playing field, predicting a recurrence of 2018.
“Zimbabwe is on course for another contested election. Current conditions don’t conform with the Southern African Development Community’s election guidelines, nor do they provide an even electoral playing field. The ruling Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF) has perfected the use of non-violent coercion to intimidate people into acquiescence.
“Over the past five years, the democratic space has narrowed as the law has been weaponized, opposition members and activists prosecuted, and COVID-19 regulations used to shut down civic and political activism,” read the statement.
Zimbabwe’s build-up to elections has been characterised by barring of opposition rallies by Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) while Zanu PF has enjoyed a free space.
ISS said the Mnangagwa regime has been using the law to thwart opposing voices further intimidating citizens.
CCC outgoing legislator Job Sikhala has been wallowing in prison for over a year on pre-trial detention after being denied bail several times.
“Before the pandemic, between August 2018 and March 2020, doctors, teachers and civic activists protested against problems plaguing the country. Since then, there have been no significant protests or collective citizen voices on governance and livelihood issues, even as poverty rises.
“Lawfare used during the Mnangagwa administration has produced a cowed citizenry. The arrests of leading civic and political activists and journalists demanding accountability and transparency have further dampened spirits. The recent passing of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Amendment Act (‘Patriot Act’) seals the sustained use of unjust laws to intimidate citizens,” read the report further.
Furthermore, ISS contends that the participation of former Zanu PF commissar Saviour Kasukuwere will add another dimension that might result in a run-off.
“In the current circumstances, the prospects of an election result being accepted by the major players seem remote. Chances of a second round of voting will increase if the former ZANU-PF political commissar, Saviour Kasukuwere, is allowed to participate. ZANU-PF is keen to prevent that, as the stakes would rise considerably in such a scenario, along with prospects for violence like in 2008.
“And, as happened 15 years ago, even if the CCC is successful in the first round, it cannot guarantee that a legal transfer of power will follow. There is no neat conclusion for Zimbabwe in sight.”