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  • Zimbabwe's Elections 2013 - Index of Articles

  • Trying to remember what elections are really about
    Reyhana Masters
    July 15, 2013

    Elections in this country have been weighed down with so much baggage over the years - intimidation, harassment, deception, contradictions and of course brutal violence that our minds are constantly whirling.

    In this election confusion reigns supreme.

    It started off with uncertainty, moved to understanding, then uncertainty, then confusion and now we are in that space of messy muddle. Not because we’re muddled but because the best way to distract a nation is to get their attention caught up with diversions. These distractions are important to take care of but at the same they manage to divert people from what they should be concentrating on and spending their energy on.

    These disruptions deplete the intellectual, emotional, physical and financial resources of people, organisations and institutions.

    It started so much earlier. Yes, we all knew that elections had to take place this year - but we were never really certain. Are we having elections this year or not? Well, yes we are? Ok, when? Not sure! Then Oh! The date’s been set - July 31 - it goes on and on and the violations, contradictions and conflicts escalate in volume and occurrence.

    The confusion and shenanigans are endless and so our whirling minds never really come to rest. It means that we really don’t have the time to contemplate or focus on what we need to think about. We lose the essence of what is relevant, important and normal!!

    You know what it feels like?

    It feels like balls being juggled in the air that never land. You don’t get to catch even one. So it becomes impossible to form tangible thoughts that make sense. The sense of all that matters and that is important seems to be suspended in mid air.

    The questions are half formed and half answered - there are questions that are going through everyone’s mind and before you get to answer even one, your mind is already moving on.

    Do I take part in this process which is flawed in so many ways. Well yes . . . but . . . Well, If I don’t take part what does it mean. I have to, need to and must take part. I have to vote. Disconnecting myself is not an option, even when people go on and on about the inevitable result.

    Putting aside all the chaos, confusion and deception, I make myself go back to the core of elections to remind myself that after July 31 I am stuck with council, MP, Senator for the next 5 years.

    So what am I voting for - yes, yes I know what you’re thinking. In Zimbabwe the question is not that simple, but if things were different - normal that is - the conversation would be so different. We would all be comparing candidates instead of questioning the legitimacy, accountability and transparency of an election.

    If we really had the opportunity to have our opinions considered and if all was well in the world - our minds would have to ponder over different things and our inner conversations would focus on what is significant!

    I know what is key for me in this election. It’s the conversation that should be taking place on the bus, on the kombi, at beerhalls, in schools, in queues, during coffee breaks at work and anywhere and everywhere.

    Let’s bring sanity back to the insane.

    What are the qualities that we want in our MP/Senator/Councillor so they represent us meaningfully and effectively?

    So let’s start that conversation right here and right now.

    Why am I voting for him or for her?
    What are the qualities he/she has that makes them suitable enough.
    What qualities should they have?

    I can start off this conversation care of Lilian Wade - who discusses the good qualities of public officials and the one l agree with and feel is top of the list - commitment which she defines in exactly the way we should expect our public officials to act:

    Commitment requires courage and defies difficulties and distractions. Commitment breeds competence, and it compels you to suppress your needs and interests for the greater good of the populace. As a public official you dedicate yourself to concerns such as improving the quality of life, addressing social issues, improving opportunities and ensuring equal rights. Issues that affect your constituents are a primary focus of any elected public official.

    Well put, don’t you think. If you agree then the natural follow on’s would be:

    • Honesty - people need to trust you and believe what you say. You have to conduct yourself with integrity.
    • Courage - you will have to make decisions that others may not like or agree with.
    • Accountability - and please remember you are accountable to the people, so is your party actually.
    • You need to be disciplined because that will make you effective and efficient? It means you are less susceptible to the illegal and corrupt.
    • Can you bring out the best in others or are you constantly in conflict with others
    • Are you a problem solver or do you complain and blame others?

    The role of senators and MPs is not to sink boreholes in their district just before election time or to ensure that road are built or that there is electrification. If they do want to do something for their constituencies it is an added bonus.

    In actual fact, that is the role of councillors.

    MPs and Senators have to make meaningful contributions in Parliament - are people accessing ARVs, why is there such a high mortality rate for pregnant women, should education modules be reviewed to keep up with changing trends. They must do research. They should speak to stakeholders. So you ask, why is it important for MPs and Senators to know this. Well if they understood critical issues they would then interrogate them more meaningfully. They would be forced to review and understand the legislation and policies they are voting yay or nay for.

    I was never sure to laugh or cry when I read about the Senator who told Zimbabwe Parliamentarians during a sensitisation workshop that HIV is spreading at an alarming rate because men find it difficult to resist women because they are becoming more attractive. His solution to this was ensure women always have bald heads, lose weight and dress shabbily to reduce their attractiveness as part of measures to curb the spread of HIV?

    I realise that because so many council seats were unopposed, the majority of our councillors are members of ZANU PF.

    My stipulation is simple - please focus on service delivery. We are an intelligent nation - we realise that power cuts are inevitable - so sit down on our behalf - the people you represent - and negotiate that power cuts/load shedding whatever you want to label it is carried out in a systematic way so that we can plan our lives. Businesses cannot plan or thrive when the power is cut suddenly. Families can work out options. We could all be more productive and happier if we could work to a schedule - not just one on paper - a schedule that really works.

    Stop being part of the corrupt tendering processes - your gain is only short term. If you haven’t gained, then it is even more important that you speak out or expose illegal decisions. Eventually your part in this corruption either by your silence or your acquiescence will impact on you, your family and of course everyone else.

    The next time you are racing to the airport, just remember, several years on, the dual carriageway to and from the airport should have been complete.

    A mall should not be built on a wetland because you are getting a kickback. In 10 years you will need to spend even more money purifying water than we rare now. Except in a few years your being elected or re-elected will seriously depend on how you deliver - to the people that is.

    What all this means is that elections are about accountability to the people!

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