It’s the Food that Counts: Food for Thought – Reviewing the Pre-election Period in Zimbabwe (April 2005)
There is a clear difference between the electoral climate preceding the current 2005 parliamentary elections on the one hand and the previous parliamentary elections of 2000 and presidential elections of 2002 on the other. The latter elections were characterised by an intense interest and excitement amongst Zimbabwean voters. The present atmosphere around the current elections appears muted in comparison. Furthermore, another unfortunate and salient feature of the previous elections was systemic and endemic violence perpetrated, in the main, by ZANU (PF) supporters.
There is a general consensus between contesting parties that there has been a dramatic and remarkable reduction in physical violence in the build up to the present elections. This is not to say that violence has abated completely. However, the contrast with the previous two national elections is so marked that there is a temptation to maintain that the current elections are “free and fair” by comparison. Nonetheless, as is indicated in this report, notwithstanding the reduction in violence, the current electoral conditions fall well short of the regional standards for elections introduced by the “SADC Principles and Guidelines Governing Democratic Elections” adopted in Mauritius in 2004.
According them, for a “free and fair” election to take place, voters must have a “free and informed choice”. For the current election, this “free and informed choice” is further restricted by the absence of previously available and affordable daily independent newspapers and strangled by the politicization of food handouts which cynically forces voters to choose between their own survival, and by extension their families, and the survival of the ruling party.