As we approach the elections, there is much discussion of the processes of the election. What order should the candidates should appear on the ballot paper? What direction should the candidates face as they cast their ballots? And even, should people be permitted to take selfies whilst voting.
I must confess to caring very little about these procedural issues. I think most people will choose their candidate irrespective of their order on the ballot paper, and I really am not bothered whether people post selfies on Facebook or not.
But there is one issue about the election that nobody seems to be talking about, that I do care about.
One of the most fundamental principles of democracy is that you accept the will of the people. For better or for worse.
Of the two leading candidates, one has been unequivocal about accepting the people’s verdict, whether positive or negative. After months of pledging a free and fair election and to respect the will of the people, this week President Mnangagwa told South African television in no uncertain terms that “if we lose these elections, we will hand over power to the party which wins the election. This is democracy.”
Unfortunately, the other candidate – Nelson Chamisa – has made no such commitment. Instead, he has numerous times stated that he refuses to accept the election results unless he wins.
A few weeks ago, he announced that “if I don’t win, it won’t be a free and fair election.” On Wednesday, at a press conference intended to highlight the lack of democracy, he refused to commit to accepting the election results if he loses.
For a man who talks of little except for the need for free and fair elections, he is fairly confused about what free and fair actually means.
Just as ED has been clear on his preparedness to accept the election results irrespective of the result, the self-styled ‘People’s President’ has been equally clear on his refusal to accept the people’s verdict.
Now just imagine the roles were reversed. Imagine that it was ED who said the elections would only be considered fair if he wins. There would be outrage. Chamisa would be calling foreign military intervention to depose him. And the observers would be shouting from the rooftops that ED was an enemy of democracy.
But when it is Chamisa refusing to accept the will of the people, the same voices are strangely quiet. This is hypocrisy, plain and simple.
I believe in democracy. Passionately. But the democracy I believe in is about the will of the people, not trivial issues such as who is where on a ballot paper.
For ultimately, the biggest threat to Zimbabwe’s peace is Chamisa’s refusal to accept the election results.
The polls are showing ED will win, fair and square. The only question is whether Chamisa sufficiently understands democracy to concede the election and preserve the peace.
Unfortunately, the evidence suggests he does not. And we will pay the price.
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