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Zimbabwe's Elections 2013 - Index of Articles
and elections: The need for a Transitional Executive Council
Research and Advocacy Unit
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When South Africa
was faced with the problems of negotiating its transition by an
election in 1994, it produced an extremely important mechanism to
ensure that the election would be free and fair, and that the overwhelming
power of the South African state (dominated by the National Party)
could not be used to the advantage of the government in power. It
did this by creating a Transitional Executive Council, a body that
would exercise some of the delegated powers of the government and
This was a highly successful innovation that, in fact, was crucial
to South Africa holding a wholly valid election, and moving safely
to a change of regime. The TEC idea has considerable merit for Zimbabwe
objects of the TEC:
and promoting a climate for free political participation by endeavouring
any impediments to legitimate political activities;
any form of intimidation which has a bearing on the said transition;
that all political parties are free to canvass support from voters,
to organize and hold meetings and to have access to all voters for
the purposes thereof;
the full participation of women in the transitional and electoral
structures and processes; and
(v) ensure that
no Government or administration exercises any of its powers in such
a way as to advantage or prejudice any political party;
and promoting conditions conducive to the holding of free and fair
Now the whole
object of passing the Transitional Executive Council Act in 1993
was specifically to overcome similar problems to those currently
faced by Zimbabwe. This highly innovative and courageous solution
to the polarization in South Africa needs investigation by Zimbabweans.
has a security sector blatantly (and illegally) expressing affiliation
to apolitical party; the whole administrative apparatus (civil servants,
local government officials, traditional leaders, etc.) of the state
also affiliated to one political party; and finally the (mostly)
discredited electoral machinery under the control of one political
party. These are hardly the conditions under which a genuine, democratic
election can take place, and this is the litany continuously and
loudly proclaimed by political parties and civil society.
But how to then
change this situation in the rapidly closing space ahead of the
elections? Certainly there is insufficient time for legislative
reform: there was barely enough time to pass the amendments to the
Act, although this now seems remedied by Presidential decree.
And it is certainly the case that both political parties and civil
society generally has paid far too much time to the constitutional
process and too little time to the process of reform. There have
been many opportunities for the two MDCs to engage the crucial matters
around reform, but this is not the place to recollect the missed
opportunities. There has been a great opportunity under the GPA
for civil society to re-position itself again as the watchdogs over
Government, but this too has been largely lost.
This may all
be water under the bridge with elections now slated for 31st July,
but what was needed is for the political parties to agree that,
taking a leaf out of the South African book, there is need to create
the appropriate oversight bodies to ensure that the elections conform
to the SADC Principles and Guidelines for the Holding of Democratic
Elections. As was the case in South Africa, the government needed
to create a Transitional Executive Council, and the requisite number
of sub-Councils) to oversee the process.
This, of course,
requires the political will to delegate much of the powers of the
Government and the Presidency to a new body, but this is what was
done for the South African elections in 1994, and the world acclaimed
both the process and the wisdom of the political leaders: Nelson
Mandela and F W de Klerk were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.
would this work in practice?
By Act of Parliament,
an overall body would have been established to run the country up
until the results were announced. This body would have been composed
of representatives of all political parties, and it, in turn, would
have established the sub-bodies to provide oversight of the electoral
process. This needed not to be as comprehensive as was the case
in South Africa where a large number of sub-councils were established:
law and order, stability and security, defence, intelligence, foreign
affairs, status of women, finance, and regional and local government
and traditional authorities.
only four key sub-councils would have been necessary: security sector
(police, army and intelligence), media, local government, and traditional
leaders. These would have been sufficient to ensure that the partisanship
seen in all these areas was at least minimized. All Zimbabweans
know that these are the critical institutions that allow or disallow
free democratic activity, and, if constrained from being partisan,
they could create the conditions for the kinds of poll that all
Zimbabweans dream of. That Zimbabweans dream of freely and fairly
voting is so evident from the recent referendum: that one million
more voters turned out than in the previous elections
in 2008 not only points out how many are currently disenfranchised,
but also shows how keen Zimbabwean citizens are to participate in
the political life of the country.
ask for any less than this in our extremely vexed and polarized
position? Could SADC ask for less in the light of their continual
demand for reform? Will the President take this final opportunity
to leave the legacy of an election that all can be proud of? Perhaps
then we can have an election where, whichever party wins, the citizens
can move into to the future knowing that they have freely elected
the government of their choice?
opportunity has been lost, and once again democracy is likely to
be the loser in Zimbabwe.
1) For a copy
of the Transitional Executive Council Act, see the Southern
African Legal Information Institute.
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