On 30 July, Zimbabweans will take to the ballots to vote for new members of Council, Parliament and, of course, the big one, the President of Zimbabwe. Our country has become increasingly polarised with toxic politics taking the forefront. Its either you’re with us or against us. There is no middle ground. That mindset is what enables citizens to be manipulated by politicians and political parties.
In November 2017, Zimbabwe ushered in a ‘new dispensation’. Part of the new dispensation should not just be about politicians and political parties, but also most importantly the citizens themselves in changing how we pick people who should lead us. A change in straight ticket voting or voting up and down the ballot would be key. Straight ticket voting leads to laziness in political parties and especially candidates because it guarantees seats and wins which they may not be deserving of. Harare City Council is a perfect example, one party has dominated the Council Chambers for decades now with really nothing worthwhile on the ground to justify such control. Same goes for rural constituencies also dominated by a party that has made endless promises of development which are still to materialise. The people behind these unfulfilled pledges continue being rewarded by the electorate and the culprit, in my view, is straight ticket voting.
How most people vote is usually influenced by their choice for President, and that then encourages the corresponding votes for Council, and Member of Parliament. As citizens we need to realise that presidential candidates will hold onto certain people due to party or even personal loyalties that have nothing to do with the national agenda. It is our responsibility as the electorate to be able to recognise this and vet for ourselves to make the choice of not voting for those ‘loyalty picks’ some of whom are completely unqualified and unsuitable whilst others need only be considered for which prison to place them in. We should not be held hostage by political parties, we do not owe them anything, and it is they in fact who owe citizens everything.
This election has seen a large number of independent candidates, both for seats in council and in parliament. Some of these candidates have really good ideas on how to turn around their chosen constituency’s fortunes.
Having independent members of parliament and council would be a great advantage. In my view, independent candidates’ aren’t beholden to any political party and therefore are most likely to act in citizen’s interest without party ideological interference.
I do not think it is disloyal to your party of choice if you choose to put your constituency first, you may have a preference of who you want to be President, but that does mean you have to choose your Councillor and MP from that same party.
The two main political parties (in terms of numbers) have of late taken to blackmailing citizens against voting for independents, with claims of them weakening ‘the cause’ and handing the other side a win through their potential support and vote. Parliament needs to have diverse voices and not be dominated by one or even two parties so as to be better able to hold the presidium and government to account. It is however debatable as to whether independents can successfully lobby for or against bills introduced in parliament without critical mass. What cannot be denied however is the passion and conviction to a cause that an independent may exhibit. Themba Mliswa for instance, a firebrand independent MP for Norton is very vocal as the Chairperson of the Mines Parliamentary Portfolio Committee. His efforts have roused national debate on matters of corruption and tender irregularities.
In the past, I have also been guilty of blindly voting up and down the ballot.
We need to nurture a culture of analysing the value contributed by candidates at every level let us vote for policy over personality politics.
Whoever is running for a ward or constituency must have their own well thought-out proposal on what positive changes or improvements they plan to institute outside of their party’s manifesto, and have much more to offer other than being the party endorsed candidate.