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  • Zimbabwe's Elections 2013 - Index of Articles

  • Election eve diplomatic aide-mémoire
    Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum
    July 29, 2013

    There is speculation on how the international community will react should Mugabe win and SADC declares the victory credible. For instance, is the international community going to speak with one voice or are we likely to witness diffusive reactions? Another interesting problem arises from the recent statement by the EU Ambassador to South Africa Roeland van de Geer that, "If the elections are internationally recognised, we will simply do what we have to do and lift our restrictive measures." Does the lifting of restrictive measures amount to re-engagement? Assuming that the EU lifts the remaining sanctions is the USA likely to follow suit and if so, are we going to see cordial relations between President Mugabe and the superpowers? If they welcome back Mugabe, what signal does this send to the world and suffering Zimbabweans? If indeed Mugabe secures a majority win, how about minorities’ rights, which were violated? If the EU were to ignore SADC decision, how is this going to play up? One would imagine that these are some of the questions racing through the minds of policy advisors on Zimbabwe, within the western foreign offices as we speak.

    In our respectful view, the basis for any future engagements should not be the election per se but human rights record. In addressing the issue of re-engagement, the individual governments and their collective regional bodies should stand guided by their foreign policy on human rights. Here, we have sampled what some of the western democracies say about human rights in their foreign policy. The UK Foreign Policy states that, ‘The promotion and protection of human rights is at the heart of the UK’s foreign policy objectives’. The EU Strategic Framework on Human Rights and Democracy states, ‘The European Union is founded on a shared determination to promote peace and stability and to build a world founded on respect for human rights, democracy and the rule of law’. These principles underpin all aspects of the internal and external policies of the European Union. The USA foreign policy states, ‘The protection of fundamental human rights was a foundation stone in the establishment of the United States over 200 years ago. Since then, a central goal of U.S. foreign policy has been the promotion of respect for human rights, as embodied in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights’. The Germans say, ‘Protecting human rights is a cornerstone of German foreign policy’. Last but not least France also makes human rights a priority of its foreign policy by stating, ‘France wants to set an example, not to teach others a lesson but because it’s our history, our message. Setting an example in promoting fundamental freedoms is our battle and a matter of honour for us’.

    In our view, while it was noble for the international community to outsource the assessment of the July 31 elections to the Southern African Development Community, they cannot outsource the interpretation and implementation of their own foreign policies. As the French say, ‘Setting an example in promoting fundamental freedoms is our battle and a matter of honour."

    Does the international community wish to be accused of dishonour if they breach their badge of honour on 31 July 2013? The world is watching through social media and other forms of technology. Time has changed since technology has contributed to rapid information sharing and cross-cultural dialogues in this digital age. This has contributed to greater transparency on how governments work as well as enhancing second track diplomacy. With technology it is now easy for an old lady in Zimbabwe’s wild west of Mutorashanga to know what’s going on in the world as her grandchildren might be on Facebook where they are privy to foreign policy discourse.

    What message does the international community intend to send to this old lady? Do they want her to think that they will overlook the 2008 cases of politically motivated murders, abductions, disappearances, torture and intimidation? Do they want her to think that they will overlook the on-going human rights abuses, including the selective application of the law, massive corruption, recent and current clampdown on civil society and tight control of electronic media? Do they want the lady to think that they will tolerate the fact that military still looms large and constantly threaten that they will not accept any transfer of power away from Mr Mugabe's party, Zanu-PF? Doesn’t the international standards on election observation state that, “Genuine democratic elections are an expression of sovereignty, which belongs to the people of a country, the free expression of whose will provides the basis for the authority and legitimacy of government”. Do they want her to think that the international community do not care about the massive corruption that has caused her hunger? Lastly do they want her to think that they are going to accept the manipulation of institutions, for example the electoral process, especially breach of sections 21 and 51 of the Electoral Act and section 155 of the Constitution?

    For now, let us forget the politicians but focus on the old lady. How the international community want to be judged by her because the old lady and her grandchildren are the real Zimbabwe. She is the one who looks after her grandchildren since their parents died of AIDS because the government couldn’t supply them with ARVs. As the international community is very honourable, surely we do not think this is the message they wish to send across. Such a message will not only lower the democratic threshold but will contradict their foreign policy and render human rights, upon which a thriving democracy is dependant, otiose. As we all reflect on this aide memoir, let us think inter-generationally and imagine what posterity will think. One day can we honestly say that when our time came we did it right on Zimbabwe?

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