A VOTE is like a rifle; its usefulness depends upon the character of the user!
These words by Theodore Roosevelt Jr, an American statesman and writer who served as the 26th president of the United States from 1901 to 1909 should be a living a philosophy for many Zimbabweans as they head to the polls on 30 July.
July 30 is on Monday and for that matter the Government has since declared it a public holiday to enable the electorate to vote without hassles from work-related commitments.
Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) Commissioner Qhubani Moyo said:
a�?The spirit behind declaring the election day a public holiday is to enable the people to prepare for polling considering that this election is polling station-based. This means that some people might need to travel to their polling stations.
a�?It is also a way of encouraging all the people to cast their votes. If some of the people are committed on other things such as work they may fail to participate in this important exercise.a�?
At least 5,5 million registered voters are expected to cast their ballots in these historic elections and President Mnangagwa is on record saying the elections will be free, fair and credible. While this sixth presidential, ninth parliamentary and local election is seen by many as an epoch-making one, there are extremely interesting facts about it.
Firstly Zimbabweans will, for the first time since 2002, vote in a presidential election without its two main political characters; Robert Mugabe and the late Morgan Tsvangirai.
The two parties a�� Zanu-PF and MDC-T are now under new and younger political sheriffs, Emmerson Dambudzo Mnangagwa (popularly known as ED) leading Zanu-PF as well as the State while Nelson Chamisa is now in charge of the MDC Alliance.
The election is also momentous because it is the first in Zimbabwea��s history to have 23 aspiring candidates vying for the highest office and all the aspiring presidents are so confident that they would outsmart each other.
It is the highest number of candidates since the country gained independence in 1980.
Some of them who have already started putting their cards in place are being rabidly criticised as being fly-by-night weaklings whose only inspiration to be on the ballot paper is to be recorded in history books as having at some point contested as presidential hopefuls.
It will also be the first time voters will be using fingerprint identification technology adopted through the biometric voting registration (BVR) system, as part of the countrya��s advancements in information communication technologies (ICTs) and ita��s (BVR) a move which political parties anticipated to ensure the security of elections, whose handling has always been a source of contestation.
According to Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC), the fingerprint ID system which registers voters is also able to identify when people register more than once.
The longest ballot paper is also one of the interesting a�?thingsa�� that make the 30 July polls different from previous votes. Twenty-three names appearing on the presidential ballot, ita��s too big a number for people contesting in the presidential election although; the main presidential contenders are President Mnangagwa of the ruling Zanu-PF and Nelson Chamisa of the opposition MDC Alliance.
Banning of a�?witchcrafta�� animals is also another exciting feature. The election commission has banned a whole host of things from candidatesa�� logos, including some animals and weapons a�� though guns are allowed.
These animals include flame lily, cheetah, elephant, secretary bird, flaming torch, leopard, lion, buffalo, griffon (mythical creature), owl, bird of prey, cobras, sword, rhino, and laurel.
Although, no official explanation has been given for why they are not allowed, renowned historian Pathisa Nyathi told our sister paper the Chronicle that witchcraft may have been a contributing factor in some cases. He said from an African point of view for example, an owl is associated with witchcraft.
A snake can equally be associated with witchcraft. Also, depending on the type of snake, it could be related to ancestral spirits. He added that plants and animals seen as having a�?national significancea�? might also be a reason for the ban.
There is no doubt that these a�?factsa�� set up an interesting contest.
And the major talking points and election deciders are the question of who will triumph on 30 July? Which party has the best leader and who has the greatest chance of mending the economy?