Opposition parties in Zimbabwe have condemned as unfortunate a statement by the country’s chief of police suggesting that the opposition would not be allowed to rule the country ahead of this month’s general elections. Police Commissioner Augustine Chihuri reportedly accused the opposition of being stooges of the west who he claims supports the sanctions against the Zimbabwe, which is blamed for the country’s economic crisis. Professor John Makumbe is a political science lecturer at the University of Zimbabwe. From the capital, Harare he tells reporter Peter Clottey that Chihuri’s rhetoric is no news.
“It’s a normal thing. He does that in every election, and nobody pays him any meaningful attention to it because it is really a wishful thinking on his part. In the past years actually since he said he is a member of Mugabe’s party, ZANU-PF. And he has said if the opposition wins the elections he would resign. It is an intimidating tactic, but people would go and vote not because they want the police commissioner to stay or the director general of the police service who has also said the same thing, but because they want change or they want good governance. And so people will not pay any attention to that. It is an intimidating tactic,” Makumbe noted.
He said the police commissioner’s rhetoric could have a negative effect on the March 29 elections.
“Oh it definitely does. It therefore creates an environment where free and fair elections cannot be argued to occur. And so it is unfortunate, and that is a typical statement by people within ZANU-PF that they would not tolerate opposition political party winning an election and taking over from them because they liberated the country. And so free and fair elections are now really foreclosed,” he said.
Makumbe said there is a strong possibility this month’s general elections would not be credible enough to be internationally acceptable.
“No it is not possible that the people in Zimbabwe are also aware that whereas in other countries public servants are supposed to be apolitical, and they are not supposed to dabble in political statements and efforts to intimidate the public in Zimbabwe. Those who don’t give statements condemning opposition political players run the risk of losing their jobs after the ruling party has won the election, they are very likely to be demoted or fired or reassigned. And so the people know that. So free and fair elections would not be possible anymore under this current environment,” Makumbe pointed out.
He said although the odds are stacked against the opposition, they stand a strong chance of winning the March 29 elections.
“They still have a chance. Free and fair elections will normally give a true reflection of the people’s wishes about the choices of their leaders. But even under unfree and unfair elections, opposition political parties can still win,” he said.