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Another Flawed Election?
Madhuku, Chairperson, National Constitutional Assembly
from International Bar Association, Zimbabwe Election Focus
of the game must be overhauled first before dreaming of "victory"
under a set of rules specifically designed to make victory by
an opponent impossible."
At the centre
of the Zimbabwe crisis is the absence of demo- cratic and accountable
governance. This is manifested by, among other things, the systematic
assault, by the Robert Mugabe Government, on all fundamental freedoms
that are taken for granted in many parts of the world.
is being conducted under a constitutional framework whose raison
d'être is to preserve the status quo. Until Zimbabweans overhaul
the constitutional framework and introduce a new constitution anchored
on democratic institutions, it is impossible to attain the level
of 'free and fair elections'. An election that is neither free nor
fair cannot produce a fair result.
This election will not change the government, whatever the result.
The president remains the head of government and is entitled to
constitute the government until 2008, even if his ruling party loses
the parliamentary election. As the election is not about the next
government, this makes election promises by the opposition ludicrous.
A prospective MP who promises jobs, better management of the economy
and so on, when he knows that he will not be in the government whatever
the result of the election, may be seen by some voters as taking
them for a ride. This may contribute to apathy and lack of enthusiasm
forces must unify
the circumstances, what is the way forward? In the National Constitutional
Assembly (NCA) we have consistently asserted the following position:
Zimbabweans must, as a starting point out of this crisis, advocate
for and fight to establish a democratic dispensation within which
to do genuine politics. This requires unity of all pro-democracy
forces around a common agenda of establishing a new constitution
and thereafter elections under that new constitution. This approach
requires the suspension of the ambitions of individuals and political
parties to acquire political power and subjecting all our energies
towards one priority: forcing the Mugabe regime to embrace genuine
democratic reform. This pressure is not easy to achieve, nor will
it be a one-day affair. It may take a long time to build and means
serious risks to the life and freedom of everyone involved. But
if clear parameters are set and participants made aware of the risks
and the length of time involved, success is guaranteed.
approach contrasts with that of the Movement for Democratic Change
(MDC). The MDC believes in capturing power from the Mugabe regime
and then using that power to push for democratic reforms. This approach
has seen the MDC participating in the 2000 and
under hostile conditions. Notwithstanding the hostile electoral
environment, the mood in 2000 and 2002 was one of hope and enthusiasm.
In both elections, it was felt that the overwhelming anger of the
people was sufficient to overcome the constitutional and legal obstacles
placed in the way of a free and fair election. In my view, the results
of those elections proved beyond any shadow of doubt that this approach
does not work in Zimbabwe.
rules of the game must be overhauled first before dreaming of 'victory'
under a set of rules specifically designed to make victory by an
opponent impossible. Many who disagree with this approach are pure
power-seekers. This brings me to the March 2005 parliamentary election.
The MDC agrees that there has been no significant change to the
rules as they stood in 2000 and
2002 but still
believes it may 'win' the elections. It will not win the election
for one reason: the constitutional and electoral framework under
which the election is being conducted will not allow victory for
the opposition. A better approach would have been for Zimbabweans
to have refused to legitimise the Mugabe regime's rule by not participating
in a futile election and concentrating all their energies on demonstrating
the illegitimacy of the regime and mobilising Zimbabweans to put
pressure for genuine democratic reforms as a pre-condition to an
that as it may, the election is taking place on 31 March 2005 and
Zimbabweans who wish to vote must do so. What is important is to
map out what to do after the elections. To me, the way forward is
simple: the Mugabe regime will remain in power after 31 March. It
will continue with the path of bad governance, human rights abuses
and lack of respect for the rule of law. For the third time, Zimbabweans
would have realised the futility of an electoral process outside
a genuine democratic order. After 31 March, all pro-democracy forces
must unite and face the Mugabe regime with far-reaching demands.
The postelection struggle must be based on mass mobilisation and
mass protests, regardless of the number of times we may fail. Zimbabweans
must continue with the fight for a new democracy founded on a new
constitution and not allow themselves to be distracted by another
future election. The role of SADC and the rest of the international
community is to understand this position and support it.
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