Elections change nothing if there is no accoiuntability

by Tendai Ruben Mbofana

Some people have asked why I appeared as though I was not particularly enthusiastic about the forthcoming harmonized elections in Zimbabwe.

This deduction seems to have emanated from my apparent shunning of writing much on the whole affair.

Quite understandably, there are those expecting me to delve deeper into such topical issues as the shambolic voters’ roll, exorbitant candidate nomination fees, the sinister role of ZANU PF-aligned FAZ, and even double candidature by the opposition CCC.

Indeed, those are undeniably very pertinent issues, central to any democracy, and which need to be addressed with the seriousness they surely deserve.

We can even challenge ZEC (Zimbabwe Electoral Commission) itself, which is supposed to be an independent body – considering how it has made quite a number of dubious decisions.

These include, the skewed delimitation of ward and constituency boundaries, refusal to avail the voters’ roll, questions surrounding missing names of registered voters, and accusations of numerous people being moved from one constituency to another without their knowledge.

Clearly, there is plenty of which to write.

Yet, I have not!

Well, the reason is quite straightforward!

As far as I am concerned – as much as elections are an integral component of any democracy – they mean absolutely nothing when the citizenry do not hold their elected leaders to account.

It is the height of folly taking elections as the panacea to the myriad of challenges we are facing each day in Zimbabwe.

Let us remember something, which many people may find too hard to swallow.

There are no saints in politics!

Each and every politician is in it predominantly for their own power ambitions.

I honestly do not believe there is anyone who wakes up in the morning and says, in all sincerity, “I’ve decided to run for public office because I want to improve the livelihoods of the people”.

Only in a fiction movie can that happen!

In real life, politics has always been about power and the control of resources.

The citizenry only becomes a factor due to the nature of democracy – which dictates that, in order for one to achieve those power objectives, he needs to receive popular support in an election.

Quite frankly, had there been no need for voting, most (if not all) of these politicians would have never uttered such terms as ‘the people’ in their entire lives.

Besides, why would these politicians fight each other for dominance – if all they desire is to help us have a better life?

Let us say, there is an elderly lady struggling to carry a heavy load, and there are three young men more than willing to assist.

What sense would there be if they all fought amongst themselves for this opportunity to carry the load for her – even beating the daylights out of each other?

If politicians were genuinely for the interests of the people and nation, there would be absolutely no reason to fight for this privilege.

The fact that there are so many power struggles – even characterized by heinous acts of violence, court challenges, propaganda and backstabbing – is a clear sign that this has very little, if anything, to do with the ordinary citizenry.

That is why, even in the most advanced democracies, tough checks and balances are in place – designed to hold political leaders to account.

In so doing, there is the separation of power – whereby the legislature, judiciary, and executive arms of government hold each other accountable.

They are not captured or in place to serve the interests of the executive or ruling elite.

In some countries, such as the US, South Africa, and even Zimbabwe, they have gone further by enacting presidential term limits.

This is all done with the knowledge that politicians are in there for the love of power – and, if left unchecked, will run amok and easily become lifelong dictators.

In fact, such strong institutions are what prevented someone like then US president Donald John Trump from turning into a 21st century Adolf Hitler!

Who can doubt that, had the US been Zimbabwe, Trump would have easily amended the constitution to remove these presidential term limits?

Furthermore, he could have succeeded in refusing to concede defeat in 2021 and arm-twisting the electoral body into declaring him the victor over his rival Joe Biden.

Only strong unbiased institutions prevented that from taking place.

Nonetheless, the most powerful tool for keeping leaders in check are the citizens themselves.

Which explains why, in nearly all genuine democracies, such freedoms of speech, expression, demonstration, Press, assembly, and association are jealous guarded under their constitutions.

Nothing under the sun beats the people themselves, making sure their political leaders are answerable for their every action and decision.

Without exercising this potent weapon, we can never talk about democracy.

Which brings me back to the Zimbabwe issue.

Let me be brutally honest, as long as we (the people) do not hold our leaders accountable – it will not matter who is in power.

That is why I am not really interested or excited about the forthcoming harmonized elections.

I sincerely believe that, had we held the current ZANU PF regime answerable to the people, they would not have turned into the reviled monsters they are today.

However, from the day they gained power at independence in 1980, we treated them as heroes and demigods who could do no wrong.

Even when they were busy massacring tens of thousands of innocent unarmed civilians – barely two years into independence – most Zimbabweans never took any notice and behaved as if all was well.

As the years went by, the ruling elite became more and more emboldened and comfortable in their positions – as they moved on to the grand looting of our resources and all manner of corruption.

Again, we did practically nothing to stop any of that nefariousness.

Today, those in power can do pretty much what they want, without any fear of a significant backlash from the citizenry.

This has resulted in millions of Zimbabweans being thrown into abject poverty – as billions of dollars in our national resources are pillaged each month.

Who, in all this, is to blame?

So, the billion-dollar question is this:

Even if we had a new government in power after the 23rd August 2023 harmonized elections, what would change for the ordinary man, woman, and child on the street?

Will we not simply repeat what we did in 1980?

We will celebrate, with overwhelming excitement, the ‘dawn of a new Zimbabwe’ – whilst hailing those who managed to remove ZANU PF from power as heroes and demigods.

After which, we will look aside, or even support them, as they consolidate their grip on power – most likely through weeding out and purging any opponents, branded as ZANU PF remnants, who are sabotaging the new government’s programs.

As we allow them to do all this, our new leaders will become more and more dictatorial – until we have lost all control over them, as they turn the tables and control us, instead.

The looting will they follow the thieving path opened up by their ZANU PF predecessors.

Soon, we will be back to complaining that we are suffering under brutal oppressors – with, of course, those diehard supporters who will actually be in agreement with and fiercely defend such anti-people policies.

The vicious circle will then just keep continuing.

Why would there be anything to be surprised about – as nearly every politician is inspired by the love for power and control of resources?

As such, it is incumbent upon us, as the citizenry, to always hold our leaders to account – without fear or favor, no matter how menacing and brutal they may appear.

In fact, our apparent indifference to these acts of repression, even supporting and defending them, is how we ended up in this mess at the hands of ZANU PF.

As long as we continue with that attitude, we will create another kleptomaniac dictatorship in whatever political party comes to power.

In other words, I really do not place any hope in any opposition party that is elected into office after the elections – as long as we, the people, can not hold our leaders to account.

Yet, that is exactly the kind of people we are – as we allow those we support to get away with practically anything.

In a normal democracy, leaders are usually questioned and placed under close scrutiny by their own political party members.

That is why in Britain, several prime ministers (Theresa May, Boris Johnson and Liz Truss) were forced to quit – under various accusations – not by the opposition Labour Party, but by their own governing Conservative Party.

In Zimbabwe, it is completely the opposite!

The party in charge – whether at national or local government level – is seldom made answerable by its own supporters and members.


As a matter of fact, they defend anything and everything their political parties do – even blindly buying into the never-ending excuses for their abysmal failures.

Anyone who dares question is immediately branded ‘an enemy‘ – thereafter, subjected to all forms of vitriolic condemnation and insults at the hands of diehard party sycophants.

That is why it is so easy for people to categorize people as myself, albeit erroneously, into all manner of political camps.

When I criticize the ruling ZANU PF regime, I am a CCC supporter – and when I question opposition-run local authorities, I suddenly become ZANU PF!

That is absurd!

This is a troubling indication of a nation that is averse to holding its own leaders to account.

Any such thing is regarded as a sign of ‘animosity and hatred’.

Thus, it is not shocking at all that we end up with leaders who ruin our livelihoods – pushing us into the depths of poverty and suffering.

So, what will change even if another political party takes over the reins?

I repeat, politicians are not saints!

They are not in it for us, but for themselves.

Sitting back and lamely expecting our chosen politicians to naturally do what is good for Zimbabwe is the height of naivety.

It is not hatred to hold one’s leaders answerable to the citizenry.

If truth be told, I have absolutely no hard feelings or ill-will towards President Emmerson Dambudzo Mnangagwa and ZANU PF.

What I do is merely what is to be expected of any responsible citizen – specifically from ZANU PF supporters themselves.

That is why I never spend hours and hours on social media attacking or mocking him and his party.

I just post my articles, and that is that!

We should place the interests of the nation ahead of any political leader.

Therefore, as long as we are not prepared to hold our leaders to account, we should never expect anything to change in Zimbabwe, regardless of who wins the elections.

That is why I am not exactly enthusiastic about the whole electoral process.

Tendai Ruben Mbofana is a social justice advocate and writer. Please feel free to WhatsApp or Call: +263715667700 | +263782283975, or email:, or visit website:

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