Zim election offers a ray of hope

Zimbabwean voters queue to cast their ballots in the country's general elections in Harare, Zimbabwe, July 30, 2018.
Zimbabwean voters queue to cast their ballots in the country's general elections in Harare, Zimbabwe, July 30, 2018.
Image: REUTERS/Mike Hutchings

Zimbabweans look set to experience their first-ever truly free and democratic election since Zanu-PF came into power about 38 years ago. Of course, there is still a possibility that things could go awry today at the polls or, subsequently, during the counting process.

But so far, despite a few reports of intimidation and technical glitches here and there, the process has been the most peaceful since the 1980s.

Political parties and candidates were allowed to campaign freely, even though the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) raised some concerns relating to the alleged abuse of state resources by Zanu-PF.

Even former president Robert Mugabe, the man who - for years as president - brooked no opposition, was allowed to publicly denounce the ruling Zanu-PF and effectively declared that he'll vote for the opposition without any negative consequences.

Imagine what would have happened to any other senior Zanu-PF making similar remarks about the party while Mugabe was still in office. Zimbabwe is really a changed place from what it was just a few years ago.

Current president Emmerson Mnangwagwa should be commended for delivering this positive change. If all goes well, the government that would emerge after the elections, as opposed to what we saw in 2008 when Mugabe stole the polls, would be a true reflection of the people's will, we hope.

However, the greatest test of this is what happens soon after the citizens have completed casting their votes. The integrity of the counting and tallying of votes should not be compromised at any stage and those who end up on the losing side should accept the outcome.

It is a bit concerning to hear some of the MDC's leaders already planting the idea that the elections would be stollen.

Also worrying is the attitude of those in the Zimbabwean army who say they are not willing to serve under a civilian president, even if that civilian happens to have been elected by the majority.

Both sides should stop thinking out reasons for not accepting an unfavourable outcome. They should accept that in a true democracy, the fate of the parties and candidates is solely in the hands of the electorate today.

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