EDITORIAL COMMENT: 2018 General Elections: It’s Game On!

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PRESIDENTIAL aspirants yesterday filed their nomination papers at the High Court in Harare while candidates for Parliament and local authority seats submitted their papers in various centres around the country, setting the stage for the historic July 30 harmonised elections.

President Mnangagwa filed his nomination papers in Harare through his chief election agent, Cde Ziyambi Ziyambi, who is also the Minister of Justice and Parliamentary Affairs. For the first time in the history of Zimbabwe, there are female presidential aspirants in the form of Dr Joice Mujuru leading the People’s Rainbow Coalition, Dr Thokozani Khupe fronting a faction of the MDC-T and Ms Violet Mariyacha. MDC Alliance candidate Mr Nelson Chamisa, who leads another faction of the MDC-T, had his nomination papers submitted by his chief election agent Mr Jameson Timba.

Adding to the presidential hopefuls is Alliance for the People’s Agenda leader Dr Nkosana Moyo and independent candidates Mr Noah Manyika, Mr Langton Toungana and Mr Brian Mteki. The number at the time of writing this piece was pegged at 23 presidential hopefuls.

The nomination court was not short of drama as MDC proportional representation legislator Mrs Priscilla Misihairabwi-Mushonga filed papers on behalf of Dr Khupe donning a sweater inscribed “hure” (whore) at the back and “me too” on the front. The sweater was in protest over a barrage of attacks Dr Khupe reportedly suffered at the hands of a rival faction led by Mr Chamisa with youths allegedly linked to the legislator labelling her “hure” and “dissident.”

The Mr Chamisa-led faction also made a last minute bid to bar the Dr Khupe faction from using the MDC-T symbols. The party wrote to the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) asking the elections body to “protect the symbols of our party and reject any other attempt to nominate and register competing symbols by an alternative party. We seek a guarantee that you shall respect the law.”

Touted as the most democratic elections in years, President Mnangagwa has kept his promise made at his inauguration in November last year that his Government would ensure that the country holds free, fair, credible and violence-free elections. So far the country, under the new dispensation, has demonstrated democratic maturity in the manner it has handled all pre-election processes.

Peace continues to prevail with a higher level of tolerance and freedom of expression taking centre stage. The political parties have toured the length and breadth of the country uninhibited selling their respective visions to the people with the most visible opposition party being the Mr Nelson Chamisa-led MDC-T faction. During his campaigns, Mr Chamisa has been accused by opponents of making “make believe” promises like the building of spaghetti roads, building airports in rural areas and introducing bullet trains running almost twice as fast as the existing ones.

His party’s primary elections have been marred by violence and allegations of imposition of candidates leading to some members vowing to contest as independent candidates. The drama continued at the nomination court yesterday with reports that former MDC MP in Manicaland Mr Webster Chinyadza allegedly grabbed a rival candidate’s nomination papers, an incident that was confirmed by Zec. Zanu-PF on the other hand has positioned its politics on a higher pedestal by concentrating on deliverables and the economy instead of politicking in line with President Mnangagwa’s vision that he expressed during the party’s special congress in December last year.

True to his word, President Mnangagwa has spent his time wooing investors into the country with his “Zimbabwe is open for Business” mantra. His initiative has so far attracted more than $16 billion in potential investments.

President Mnangagwa has also sought to reposition the country internationally by mending relations with those countries that had hostile relations with Zimbabwe for the past 18 years. The re-engagement is part of the key elements of the Zanu-PF manifesto that also include food security, job creation, national unity, and fighting corruption. Zanu-PF went to the nomination court as the most organised party of them all, having held its primary elections. It has also healed the wounds caused by the internal polls and came up with a list of all its candidates.

Dr Mujuru’s Coalition has not been visible in the past months only to emerge recently announcing its list of candidates.
The Dr Khupe formation on the other hand only launched its “BEST” manifesto but has not been holding any campaign rallies. The other Independent candidates like Mr Manyika and Ms Mariyacha are nonentities. To ensure that the period is peaceful, the Commissioner-General of Police Godwin Matanga appointed Senior Assistant Commissioner Erasmus Makodza as the officer commanding elections alongside an elections committee based at Police General Headquarters.

President Mnangagwa’s administration has also ensured that political parties get equal coverage in the State media with the national broadcaster ZBCtv broadcasting live the launch of the MDC Alliance “SMART” manifesto. The President, as a sign of his commitment to a transparent electoral process, extended an invitation to regional and international observers to the country for the polls. A number of pre-election observer missions are in the country including among them the Commonwealth team and have met with a wide range of organisations and political players.

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