HARARE – Former Presidential Affairs minister Didymus Mutasa has backed opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai’s decision to boycott the country’s forthcoming by-elections in 14 constituencies, saying participating in such a flawed system was “not in the best interests of democracy”.

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By Fungi Kwaramba

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mutasa

Mr Mutasa and Mr Mugabe

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Speaking in an interview with the Daily News at the weekend, Mutasa — who identifies himself as the secretary for administration for the “original” Zanu PF and contemptuously dismisses the post-congress ruling party as dubious — said he was troubled by the presence and active participation of State security apparatus in the running of elections in the country.

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The former close confidante to President Robert Mugabe, who has intimate knowledge of the ruling party and government, said the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) — the statutory body that is tasked with managing electoral processes in the country — should be impartial and stop behaving as if it was an extension of the ruling party.

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Citing the country’s uneven political playing field, and the alleged involvement of security operatives in the day-to-day running of Zec, the MDC has resolved not to participate in any future polls unless there is an overhaul of the whole system.

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And at the weekend, Mutasa gave Tsvangirai his unequivocal thumbs up on the issue — going on to question the role of the State and its well-oiled state machinery in polls.

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“Why does Zec tolerate what is happening? Soldiers are beating up people in constituencies where elections will be held and yet Zec is not doing anything. Do they have any function on a positive role or are they just a window-dressing shop?

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“If that is so, then the position taken by the MDC (not to participate in elections) is correct. Why should they have elections when the outcome is pre-determined? Why go into elections when Zec is playing such a benign role?” Mutasa asked.

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Mutasa spoke as several cases of voter intimidation, including cases of brazen violence by ruling party supporters, have been recorded in hotly-contested constituencies ahead of the forthcoming by-elections.

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Top Zanu PF officials, including the minister of Local Government and Rural Development, Ignatius Chombo, stand accused of coercing people to vote for Zanu PF and reject candidates like Temba Mliswa, an independent candidate in Hurungwe West.

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In one video that is circulating on social media, Chombo is seen addressing headmen in the area and warning them that they should not associate with Mliswa.

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The minister is also heard in the video saying that he has put in place mechanisms to monitor Mliswa’s movements ahead of the by-elections slated for June 10.

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In addition, Chombo is also heard saying that he is assigning assistants, who are suspected to be operatives from the country’s intelligence system, to each of the headmen to ensure that they did not communicate with Mliswa until after the by-election.

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Maverick businessman and Zanu PF central committee member, Philip Chiyangwa, has also been dragged to court by two headmen who alleged that he beat them up in Hurungwe West, ahead of the key by-election.

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Mutasa said although there was such compelling evidence to prod Zec into action, and possibly postpone the polls, the country’s electoral management body had shown “paralysing inertia”.

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He also revealed that he was backing a number of independent candidates in the forthcoming elections, hence his dismay at the skewed political playing field.

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Mutasa said if he was a candidate in the forthcoming polls, he would have withdrawn his candidature as a form of protest.

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“If I was taking part I would withdraw because there is intimidation. What are civil servants doing in elections? Those civil servants should be ashamed of themselves,” he said.

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The former minister in charge of intelligence, who was unceremoniously dismissed from the warring ruling party ahead of its disputed congress last year, along with a host of other party leading lights such as former Vice President Joice Mujuru, said there was need to put Zec to scrutiny because elections were an essential step towards ensuring democracy.

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“There are people that I am obviously supporting in the forthcoming elections and these people are getting a very raw deal from Zec.

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“Although the MDC is not participating in these by-elections, the elections affect the whole nation and Zec’s conduct should therefore be scrutinised, they have failed and the same ministry of Justice under which it is housed has also failed,” Mutasa said.