Zimbabwe is going to the polls today (Wednesday August 23) amid fears that the “securitised” State will hijack the election – despite facing a weak opposition. The International CEO of Good Governance Africa (GGA), Chris Maroleng, speaks to BizNews following his deportation from Zimbabwe last week. Maroleng and his team were “illegally” ejected within days of arriving in the country to do field research. “I think it is really emblematic of a society that is trying to shield and blinker the eyes of the international community from what we suspect are attempts by ZANU-PF to basically hijack this election.”Maroleng says while criticisms of the opposition Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) are valid, the political environment in Zimbabwe is skewed in favour of ZANU-PF. He predicts an “illegitimate outcome”. – Chris Steyn
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Relevant timestamps from the interview
- 00:09 – Introductions
- 01:09 – Chris Maroleng on what he came across when doing research in Zim last week
- 02:34 – On Zanu-PF gaining more support in urban areas because of oppositions service delivery failure
- 04:55 – The fears of election manipulation
- 06:34 – On the reason he was told to leave Zimbabwe last week
- 10:16 – If he’s an agent provocateur
- 11:40 – Did he get a sense that he was going to be under surveillance while there
- 12:43 – On the talk of reform and transformation
- 15:36 – Conclusions
Highlights from the interview
Zimbabwe is going to the polls today (Wednesday August 23) amid fears that the “securitised” State will hijack the election – despite facing a weak opposition.
The International CEO of Good Governance Africa (GGA), Chris Maroleng, speaks to BizNews following his deportation from Zimbabwe last week.
Maroleng and his team were “illegally” ejected within days of arriving in the country to do field research.
Before Maroleng was kicked out, he “encountered people on the ground who were as usually warm as the people of Bulawayo are, but really very…timid in terms of their willingness to express themselves, suspicious of others, because as the State has increasingly become securitised, people are not sure who they speak to…”
He is not optimistic that this election will produce a legitimate outcome. “…a fair assessment of the situation would indicate to us that an enabling environment has not been created that can ultimately result in the free and fair expression of the will of the people at the polls today.”
Asked about ZANU-PF’s gain in support in the urban areas where the opposition has failed to properly deliver services, Maroleng says: “One of the things that characterises the politics of Zimbabwe has been the structural weakness of opposition. Currently, we have the CCC, the Citizens Coalition for Change, which is probably the main opposition party to contest this, led by Nelson Chamisa. One of the things that has been criticised about the CCC is that they haven’t put into place the necessary campaign structures, and I think also functional structures in the party that can allow for a really effective challenge to the governing ZANU-PF.
“And the criticism from outside, from those who would like to see the opposition doing better, is also that one of the key hallmarks of the CCC is that it seems like a political party that is really based on the personality of Nelson Chamisa himself. It’s not quite clear as you look down into the second tiers of leadership who these people are and whether this leadership is really credible and ultimately can represent an ideological position that goes beyond simply unseating ZANU-PF.
“So these criticisms of the CCC are valid, but we cannot move away from the fact that the political environment in Zimbabwe is certainly skewed, and that is, from a historical perspective, in favour of ZANU-PF”.
Asked if a weak opposition would not give ZANU-PF a victory with it having to resort to election manipulation, Maroleng says: “So it may very well be that ZANU-PF legitimately, let’s say through a narrow observation of the ballot returns, wins this election.
“However…elections are not just an event. They’re also a reflection in my view of the voter’s role. And when you look at the voter’s role in Zimbabwe, the opposition still hasn’t had access to a verifiable voter’s role that indicates who is eligible to vote in Zimbabwe.
“This basically means that the election itself, the technical basis of an election, the voter’s role is subject to challenge. And ultimately this means that irrespective of any outcome, it can only produce an illegitimate outcome.”
Commenting on his deportation, Maroleng says: “I think it is really emblematic of a society that is trying to shield and blinker the eyes of the international community from what we suspect are attempts by ZANU-PF to basically hijack this election. If they had nothing to hide, why would ZANU-PF and its government be afraid of four researchers coming in to do an assessment of what is going on in the ground?
“We were not given any letter, any notification of deportation, any indication of what we had violated leading us to a simple conclusion that our ejection and removal from Zimbabwe is nothing less than an illegal deportation.”
As for talk of reform and transformation from certain sections of the ruling party, Maroleng says: “It is the actions of the government that we judge them on, not the articulation…We need to understand that what is before us in Zimbabwe is really a coup regime. In 2017, there was a coup in Zimbabwe. It may have been bloodless, and it may have resulted in the removal of someone who was also considered to be a dictator in the form of President Robert Mugabe.
“But the truth of the matter is any unconstitutional change of power cannot produce democratic outcomes. What it tends to do is replicate itself in the form of people like the autocrat President Emmerson Mnangagwa, by the way, who was present and as Security Minister in the Robert Mugabe regime. So we cannot expect any democratic outcomes, or outcomes that are very different from what we’ve experienced in Zimbabwe’s very chequered history.”
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