By Victor Sibanda
Zimbabwe Chronicle

Voters are the final deciders in any democratic election, be
it in Africa, the West or the East.

It could be a parliamentary election, presidential or any
other.

A glimpse of the just-ended parliamentary election, which
took place on 31 March this year, speaks volumes about the
people of Zimbabwe's attitude towards their Government and
the so-called opposition.

I was physically involved in the execution of the said
elections and it is my humblest and considered view that
elections were free and fair.

It does not cease to amaze me why people, especially those
who are Western oriented are alleging that the elections were
flawed.

I personally think that the allegation is utter madness.

Zimbabwe conducted elections in the manner that was in
complete conformity to the SADC's electoral guidelines and
principles governing the conduct of democratic elections.

Opposition MDC like any other contesting political party was
accorded an opportunity to sell its manifesto through the
public media ahead of the plebiscite.

Radio and television stations ran advertisements of
contesting political parties including MDC but unfortunately
MDC used the platform to intimidate voters saying if they
voted for the ruling party ZANU(PF) sanctions were going to
be imposed on Zimbabwe.

MDC leader, Mr. Morgan Tsvangirai prayed to the West to
impose sanctions against Zimbabwe.

A Botswana MP appeared on a Botswana Television programme "On
the Eye" claiming that elections were not free and fair and
as such should be rejected.

He had this to say on 5 April 2005, " ... It is difficult to
operate under a political climate such as the one prevailing
in Zimbabwe..."

But one wonders what this legislator was referring to. I
wonder whether this legislator was following events in
Zimbabwe leading up to the elections. He unashamedly told the
world that Botswana was better than Zimbabwe, and this was
without elaboration.

As if that was not enough, a lecturer at Botswana University
blasted Zimbabwe's conduct of elections and described the
results as meaningless.

But, what are the features of democracy?

The late Professor Masipula Sithole, who was a political
commentator, says in Ulf Himmelstrand (1994), "democracy must
mean government with the consent of the governed whether in
the West, East or Third World."

Zimbabweans acted in consent with the ruling party by voting
it into power. This is indicative of democracy. Soon after
the polls on 31 March, ballots were counted at each polling
station in the presence of all political parties' agents and
observers.

Results were sent to command centres and later the national
command centre for announcement.

A democratic state should exercise freedom of speech.
Individuals are allowed to express their own views and
opinions. In multi-party states, the electorate is free to
associate themselves with any party of their own choice
without coercion.

Opposition parties are allowed to launch campaigns freely and
accorded free and fair press coverage too. This is what
transpired in Zimbabwe in the run-up to the plebiscite. The
main opposition party was given an opportunity to campaign in
the press and hold rallies across the country.

Was this aspect not an element of democracy?

Open debates were held on television and radio involving top
leaders from all the contesting parties. Views and comments
were highlighted to the viewers and listeners regardless of
party affiliation. It is against this background that one
wonders why some people are criticising the outcome of the
elections.

Legislators from both the ruling party and the opposition
discussed Bills and presented their views and suggestions of
the people in Parliament during their tenure of office before
the elections.

Prior to the poll, High Court Judge, Justice Lawrence Kamocha
advised people to campaign freely and shun violence. The
judge said that the law would catch up with anybody whether
they were ZANU(PF) or MDC supporters who violated laws of the
land.

He said this while opening a High Court session in Mutare in
early March.

President Mugabe had before that warned people to shun
violence. Police also echoed the same sentiments and banned
people from carrying dangerous weapons during the relevant
period.

Because of the factors raised above, and others, the
Government has the mandate of the electorate to rule. The
electorate vote represents their wishes. No one can alter or
manipulate their voice.

Early democratic thinkers and philosophers like John Locke
saw the policymaking or law making or legislative process as
the most important democratic procedure.

However, the similar policy measures as suggested in the SADC
guidelines were implemented in Zimbabwe in the just ended
elections.

This is common cause and everyone observed and felt it,
including local and international observers.

It is just and satisfying to describe those who are
lambasting the just ended parliamentary elections as
ignorant. Hunger for power is the only reason why people tend
to describe everything done fairly (but against their
interests) as flawed and unfair. What really will be fair and
free for them?

Sometimes the level of education counts in the analysis of
events or situations in politics. Allegations that elections
were not free and fair are frivolous, vexatious and meant to
tarnish the image of this country worldwide.