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  • Zimbabwe's Elections 2013 - Index of Articles

  • Need for an inclusive political process
    Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum
    August 16, 2013

    At the rate at which political developments are unfolding in Zimbabwe, we are likely to witness new dynamics that might usher in another inclusive government.

    As we expected before the elections, the political developments are now being dramatized in the courts and a lot will depend on how the current MDC court challenges will turn out. The MDC, it appears, has adopted a multi-pronged approach to its litigation strategy, firing several bullets just in case one misses. For instance, a judgement is currently pending in the High Court chamber application in which the MDC seeking an order compelling the Zimbabwe Election Commission (ZEC) to release documents that it wishes to rely on in the main election petition.

    Pro-Zanu legal analysts think the application is misconceived and bound to fail primarily because the MDC should have collected all its evidence before alleging electoral fraud in the first place. On the other hand, other analysts are arguing that there is no way the MDC could have collected all the evidence given the ZEC’s recalcitrance. Those who hold this view are equally skeptical if the court will order ZEC to release the material. If indeed the Judge was inclined to grant that order, he could have made it ex tempore, with reasons for his decision to follow especially given the tight deadlines within which the main petition should be heard.

    The MDC lawyers are critically aware that the smoking gun is in the documents currently held by the ZEC. However, they appear to be sniffing trouble with their application and have already counter-acted by making an interlocutory application in the Constitutional Court requesting that the election petition be heard as a trial rather than as an application. The difference being that if the matter is heard as a trial, the parties can call witnesses to adduce evidence and be subjected to cross-examination in an open court whereas in an application, the matter is decided on the papers filed before the court which Counsel can only supplement through oral legal submissions. An application therefore rises or falls based on the submitted bundle of papers. In our view, by pushing for a full trial, the MDC is adopting a pre-emptive approach just in case the High Court Chamber application fails. This interlocutor will be heard on Friday.

    Outside the Courts, there are credible but unverified reports that Zanu-PF is already sending emissaries to woo the MDC MPs who won in the elections to be part of the next government. Mr Tsvangirai also states that he has been approached although it is not clear what position he would be given should he decide to elope with Zanu-PF. Also of great significance are the rumours that the MDC MPs who ran as independents and won are in the process of forming another party to rival the MDC and even have the audacity that Morgan Tsvangirai is invited to join. In South Africa, Roy Bennett who has been the MDC’s strongest link to the international community is reported to have quit the MDC. In the SADC region, South Africa was reported as saying there are no more issues to mediate in Zimbabwe, thus implicitly serving its notice to terminate agency in the Zimbabwean conflict. This creates a void in international relations to Zimbabwe which heavily relied on South Africa.

    With regards to the economy, it is reported that about 1 000 foreign owned firms have submitted plans to comply with indigenisation thresholds, but less than half have so far been approved. This looks like the business world has already resigned to the idea of doing business under Mugabe.

    At the international level, although the EU and most influential countries have passed an interim verdict on the elections expressing deep concerns, it would appear they haven’t’ adopted a definitive position. The EU will hopefully adopt its final position in a month from the election when the measures on Zimbabwe fall for review. It appears the EU and international stakeholders are closely watching developments within the country, particularly how the drama is unfolding in the courts before they decide on whether the post-election election environment also failed the credibility test. It is interesting to see how the international community will finally decide on the issue of credibility. However, it appears so far they have room to manoeuvre and in so doing, make reference to both SADC and international standards on election observation.

    All in all it appears Zanu-PF’s game plan is working and they are playing it smart. For example, Zanu-PF has already adopted a softer stance to the West. Despite Mugabe’s rants at the Heroes Acre, Zanu-PF reportedly said they will work hard to win the West. Further, Zanu-PF has not been gloating over MDC’s loss as seen by Emmerson Mnangagwa’s recent words of comfort directed to Morgan Tsvangirai that he should not feel defeated. Contrary to the popular view before the elections, although the president appears not to be showing signs of softening on his legacy, he honoured his word on the calls for peace, if we were to define peace simply by the lack of widespread overt violence. He was keen on peaceful elections, as this would help him manage the succession issue. In that regard, he knows that a severely weakened Tsvangirai can still have a role to play as a pawn in his grand scheme of things.

    In light of the likely political stalemate, it might be time to consider new approaches to ensure an inclusive political process rooted in national reconciliation. Assuming Tsvangirai had won the poll, the military would not have allowed him to govern or assuming that the military had allowed him to govern, Zanu-PF would still have a role as the opposition. The situation in Zimbabwe sends two clear lessons, firstly that democracy is expensive and secondly that it is a long and painstaking process which might not fit our pre-conceived templates. The process has its own pitfalls, twist and turns and in the case of Zimbabwe might require longer periods of transitional arrangements until people's attitudes have changed and the current older generation of politicians has had its own time.

    Huge resources have been invested into Zimbabwe and many reforms achieved. The international community should be cautious not to allow a sole Zanu-PF government reverse such gains. The EU might have been right after all in observing that government turnover does not guarantee democratic change in Zimbabwe. Zanu-PF lacks democratic roots; but the MDC has, for its part, done little to prove its trustworthiness. Rather than asking who is in power, international analysts might want to put a stronger focus on how to actually improve Zimbabwe's political culture and institutions.

    Zimbabwe, instead should try to look creatively at new approaches toward a genuinely inclusive political process that would be rooted in reconciliation. However, Zanu-PF should desist from unhelpful attitudes, face the issue of electoral legitimacy first rather than prevail over the courts to cover it up. They need to exercise leadership by adjusting their political strategies to a more transparent and inclusive approach.

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