After heading to the polls Wednesday, Zimbabwe will likely be left with one of a few predictable scenarios.
Guests speaking at the National Endowment for Democracy panel with the theme “Beyond the Elections in Zimbabwe”, discussed life after the polls and the role of civil society in building institutions and international issues. The discussions focused on three possible election results.
Those possibilities include reelection of Zimbabwe’s incumbent President Robert Mugabe, a win by one of the Movement for Democratic Change parties or a stalemate leading to a second government of national unity negotiated by regional players, including the Southern African Development Community and the African Union.
Speaking in Washington DC on Tuesday, the Zimbabweans drawn from several sectors discussed one question on millions of minds: What happens after Zimbabwe’s national election next Wednesday.
The panelists including civic society representatives, political analysts and representatives of the United States government, among others, agreed on the unpredictable nature of the elections saying it is the process of the elections that is important to Zimbabweans in recognizing their next government.
Zimbabwe Union of Journalists secretary general Foster Dongozi said Zimbabweans are prepared to usher in a new government but expect those in power to uphold the constitution and maintain the rights of all Zimbabweans.
Dongozi said civic society, regardless of the government in power, should continue to demand and press for respect of all institutions within the country.
"CSO's and unions should continue demanding accountability, transparency, and clearness from which ever government comes into place," said Dongozi.
Private business representative and former president of the Zimbabwe National Chamber of Commerce, Oswell Binha, stressed the need for Zimbabwe to return to its economic prominence.
Mr. Binha said Zimbabwe can only do so through a respected political process that brings about a peaceful election with an uncontested winner.
Binha said the private sector is also prepared to usher in any government, as long as the process remains legitimate.
"As long as we are not going to look at productivity and economic development, politics will still continue to be a challenge in the country because people will not be happy," said Binha, adding that "the high happiness index comes from a people with jobs, a people with food and a people with adequate schooling."
But challenges have already affected the run-up to elections with Zimbabweans complaining of an electoral process that has already been marred by intimidation and harassment of supporters opposed to Zanu PF. There are fears that this could possibly affect the election outcome.
With issues of lack of transparency during the nation-wide voter registration exercise, some Zimbabweans say they expect to be systematically barred to participate in the national vote.
Youth activist and director of the Institute for Young Women Development, Glanis Changachirere, said the power and numbers in the national vote would be the only way to sway challenges expected to affect the result.
Changachirere said people, especially the youth who have been marginalized, have to capitalize on voting to ensure that the people’s voice prevails despite the difficulties expected.
Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights executive director, Irene Petras, said Zimbabweans have to remove themselves from worrying about the outcome of the election and aftermath of the polls, but be concerned about proper constitutional procedures for conducting a free and fair election.
"It is important that people have confidence that they will be able to get to a polling station, find their name on the voters roll and are able to cast their ballot before the polling stations close," said Petras.
She said it is up to all responsible parties mandated under the constitution to ensure proper electoral processes are followed.
The panelists said they hope Zimbabwe would hold a free and legitimate process and usher in a new government.
Key note speaker and Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Southern Africa, Shannon Smith, said the United States was committed in moving its relationship forward with Zimbabwe, and is following the process as Zimbabweans participate in the civic and political life of their country.