Zimbabwe votes 2023 embodies the complete definition of a zombie election

The conduct of the August 23, 2023 harmonised elections in Zimbabwe was characterized by all manner of irregularities not least extended delays in delivery of election materials to polling stations, arrest and detention of citizen observers on trumped up charges, intimidation of voters, internet degrade and vote buying.

Observers reported that ballot papers were not delivered to urban (easy-to-reach) polling stations until lunchtime resulting in delays in voting in critical urban polling districts/wards.

For example, at Westlea Primary school polling center, the ballot papers were not delivered until 4.00pm and at that time, many of the voters had returned home.

The secret known is that the delayed delivery of polling materials affected mostly the polling centers in the capital Harare and Bulawayo which are renowned opposition strongholds, resulting in voter suppression.

There were reported flyers spreading disinformation/misinformation including denial of fertilizers to farmers who dare vote for opposition. ZANU PF exit poll desks were observed in the vicinity of polling stations especially in remote areas where elderly voters had to submit details of their national identity cards to check for who they voted for and were also required to write down their names. This created a public perception of retribution to citizens who did not vote for the incumbent president.

Observers further reported incidences of controlling voter consent. A case in point being a polling station in Chipinge where more than 30% of the votes cast at 2.00pm in the afternoon was done by assisted voters. This is a red flag for controlled voter consent.

As if this was not enough, in the evening of election day, at approximately 11.00pm, security operatives raided the joint data centers of leading citizen observer organisations namely; Zimbabwe Electoral Support Network (ZESN), the Election Resource Center (ERC) and Team Pachedu. During the raid, 38 individuals were arrested, detained and charged with engaging in subversive and criminal activities.

The secret known is that ZESN, ERC and Team Pachedu are not foreign observers, but they are citizens of Zimbabwe who were fulfilling their civic duty of participating in their country’s election not only as voters but also as observers. As citizens, the arrested individuals have rights to observe their own country’s election.

Secrets Known has further understood that internet services were degraded on Election Day ostensibly to prevent the citizen observers from reporting election-day flaws to the rest of the world.

The actions articulated above embody the complete definition of a zombie election – the living-dead of an election recognizable only in form but devoid of any substance. It shows a complete disrespect for democracy and the depth to which Zimbabwe has sunk in relation to democratic decline.

Secrets Known had already predicted that the pre-election context in Zimbabwe was already destined to a zombie election and it has come to pass. Africa seems to be going through an age of a zombie democracy.

Over the past decade, autocrats in Cameroon, Central African Republic, Egypt, Equatorial Guinea, Uganda, and Zimbabwe to mention but a few, have perfected the technique of “managed” or “guided” democracy. However, now that opposition parties have learned to survive in a rigged context, autocrats seem to have moved from managed to zombie democracy.

According to an observation by Accountability Lab – Zimbabwe, ZANU-PF, has mastered the art of electoral subterfuge, manipulating electoral systems, and turning elections into rituals that deceive people into believing that they have power in elections without choice.

Other Secrets Known


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