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Crisis Comment on Just Ended Referendum: Zimbabweans"¦voting 'yes' for Progress

 

Several facts about the just ended referendum are impossible to refute, without evidence to the contrary. One of those facts, as stated by the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission, is that over 3 079 966 Zimbabweans voted 'yes' in favor of a new constitution. This turn out is worthy of our pride, and would have been easier to be prouder of had we not had just ZEC to rely on. There was thin spread of observers at polling stations at the time of counting, and unlike during other elections, there were no Polling Agents either from the parties supporting a "Yes € vote or a "No € vote. So those who think the figures were inflated or deflated may have a case that, unfortunately, is hard to prove because of the absence of the above stated corroborators. That being said, all we have is ZEC and what it put out. In the absence of information to the contrary ZEC's version becomes gospel truth. The other fact, which is even less disputable, is that many of these Zimbabweans who endorsed the draft constitution have little, if any, idea what its contents are or what its import is - but they voted 'yes' regardless.

 

Another fact is that the three main political parties aggressively campaigned for a 'yes vote' traveling across the length and breadth of the country preaching the gospel of 'incremental gain' also known as 'something is better than nothing'.

 

Having overwhelmingly triumphed at last Saturday's referendum polls, those who campaigned for the 'yes vote' can now fight over who takes the credit and proceed to interpret the referendum results in whichever way suits their egos or serves their electoral and political agenda.

 

However, amid all these facts there is one fact that stands alone, un-propped by the rhetoric of political actors or the analysis of experts and without the weight of SADC, regional or international rubber-stamped approval to lend it credence.

 

That fact is that to a lot of Zimbabweans, the referendum was not necessarily on the constitution but on the state and future of the country. Zimbabweans voted 'yes' more for the sake of and for progress. They voted 'yes' in the hope that a new constitution will bring about some positive change and mark the beginning of a new era for their country.

 

Those who criticized the new constitution and stood resolutely opposed to the COPAC draft by casting a 'no' vote should take heart in that they were not defeated. Rather, what they were campaigning around, was not what the people were voting on. They should take heart from the reality that, what has happened may have been a classic case of having the right answer to the wrong question.

 

For the majority of those who voted on Saturday, the flaws in the draft, in whatever form or shape; were insufficient a reason to keep the nation in the current state of political limbo, that we have collectively christened the 'Inclusive Government'.

 

Whilst it cannot be disputed that the Inclusive Government has brought about some positive changes here and there - these are mostly superficial as the three political parties who are at the helm of the country have also displayed a penchant for bickering, shifting blame and undermining each other, and Zimbabweans have had enough of that.

 

So for progress' sake, Zimbabweans voted 'yes' to put an end to this political impasse. Zimbabweans voted 'yes' because they are fed up with being the proverbial grass that gets trampled on as the political parties in the GNU relentlessly jostle for power with the vigor of elephants making love.

 

Whilst they may have varying expectations and priorities as to the nature of progress they wish to see, Zimbabweans voted 'yes' not only to embrace a new era but also to register disaffection with the current political status quo.

 

For many, who had no idea what was contained in the COPAC draft that they voted 'yes' for - the gesture goes beyond providing a detailed or nuanced explanation as to which provisions in the new constitution they were in support of. For many Zimbabweans who cast the so-called 'blind' yes vote - the gesture takes on the glossy shimmer of the symbolic rather than the tangible - voting 'yes' becomes an aspirational endeavor. Voting 'yes' becomes a statement about the hope Zimbabweans carry of moving on, going forward and finally walking away from the rut of a stagnated system of governance that has hamstrung the nation's potential to achieve meaningful progress in every sphere.

 

The criticism that most Zimbabweans who voted 'yes' did not even have the slightest clue what they were voting for is as stubborn as the view that these same Zimbabweans were voting against something - they voted against the possibility of things remaining the way they are.

 

They voted in the name of progress. And no one can fault them for that. It would behoove us well to remember that with a new constitution in place, the next destination this country is headed for are the harmonized elections and it is the people of Zimbabwe who will have the final say. Politicians would do well to bear this in mind, and as they celebrate, know that rather than being an endorsement of their popularity, the referendum was an indictment on the way they have been conducting Political business. Their celebrations, contrary to the loud competition for credit that we have heard emanating from them, should be muted in cognizance of the fact the people are fed up. The people are not pawns in some political chessboard because they have agency to do, with their voting clout, whatever they believe, will ultimately propel the country forward. After all, it has been said that the voice of the people is the voice of God.

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