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Elections aren’t won through posters, t-shirts and press advertisements

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Some MDC activists that I’ve spoken to have said that the economy – the deteriorating economy – will make victory at the polls pretty much a done deal. Who would vote for a man who has presided over our economic free fall? But one of the first steps in winning an election is making sure that your supporters are registered to vote. An article that we posted on Kubatana.net recently called No joy for pregnant women during economic crisis comes to mind. The author interviews a woman who says that even though a birth certificate is a vital document she can’t afford the nominal amount that she owes the hospital. So they are withholding the birth certificate because of her nonpayment of the medical fees associated with the birth of her child.

With regard to the election, in this environment where transport is incredibly expensive and where you can hardly access any public service without paying a bribe, many Zimbabweans would have thought twice about the cost of registering to vote when their other basic needs like buying food come first. Clearly the deteriorating economic environment has been a thorn in the side of both political parties. The opposition finds “more” Zimbabweans need to be in cash or bread queues, than in freedom marches or voting lines. This might be short sighted but a belly full of hunger needs to be sated, even temporarily.

I went to one of “More” Morgan’s star rallies a week ago. I was surprised by how many people in the crowd were wearing MDC t-shirts. And I questioned the ratio of members of the public (voters) versus MDC campaign workers and their hangers-on. The Mail & Guardian interviewed Kennedy Shoko, a barber at a downtown salon in Bulawayo

He says his only major worry is that the opposition might not be able to turn the crowds it has been attracting in campaign rallies into votes. “Most of these youths who have been running around are not registered voters.”

Another Mail & Guardian article entitled A Day At The Polls made me think of my voting experience yesterday:

If this was the day that the big change would take place, Harare did not look the part. If it weren’t for the posters and the tent structures for polling stations on open land, one would be forgiven for thinking this was just another sleepy public holiday in the capital of Zimbabwe.

Elections aren’t won through posters, t-shirts and press advertisements.

With reports of a low turnout I’m wondering if the MDC leadership can multi-task; whether they can operate outside of election fever? Has the MDC engaged a sustained voter registration campaign since the last election, or have their eyes been solely fixed on negotiations?

The electoral playing field is unequal and unfair – the MDC has been criticising this since the 2000 election – so I, like many others, am sick and tired of the opposition crying “foul play”. That multi-tasking question comes up again: with the certainty of Mugabe rigging the election in his favour, has the MDC been preparing their supporters for Plan B, or does a phrase like “defend your vote” equal their idea of a Plan B?

Change in Zimbabwe has to come from an inspired political leadership backed by courageous citizens. But we do need leadership. We need leaders who do more than spout vague slogans like “defend your vote”.

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