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Zimbabwe's Elections 2013 - Index of Articles
is on the line as elections near
M Sims, Mail and Guardian (SA)
July 26, 2013
Zimbabwean election is more than a high stakes winner take- all
competition between Zanu-PF and the Movement for Democratic Change
(MDC-T), led by Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai.
decision to hold harmonised
elections poses a serious challenge to both the credibility
of the Southern African Development Community’s (SADC’s)
five-year mediation and its lead facilitator, South Africa.
will end the power sharing arrangement that ultimately brought stability
to Zimbabwe, reversing a devastating economic decline and re-opening
some, albeit not enough, democratic space.
But the current
pre-electoral period has proved that old habits die hard, as Mugabe
and his Zanu-PF party are embroiled in a “do or die struggle”
to regain a monopoly on power.
As we observed
in 2008, today’s intimidation and violence, as well as other
undemocratic behaviour, has been tactically employed by Zanu-PF
loyalists against supporters of the opposition. Rural areas, where
Zanu-PF has maintained highly intact and functional party structures
and which are difficult for most observers and media to reach, have
suffered the most.
recent surveys sponsored by Freedom House and Afrobarometer demonstrated
worrying trends for Tsvangirai’s MDC-T, depicting a drop in
support. This stands to reason because Mugabe surely would not have
called an election if Zanu-PF was not confident of a victory.
to be seen is whether or not the leadership and supporters of the
MDC factions led by Tsvangirai and Welshman Ncube - many of whom
have truly suffered in their attempts to express their democratic
rights - will accept the outcome in the event of a Zanu-PF victory.
Or rather, we must all ask ourselves, can an election in Zimbabwe
be considered free and fair only if Mugabe is defeated?
failure to apply leverage and ensure the full implementation of
Political Agreement (GPA) or the election road map before the
election will certainly lead to any outcome being contested, as
well as to a crisis of legitimacy.
The state of
today’s electoral environment blatantly defies SADC’s
own principles and guidelines governing democratic elections. The
justice system continues to be used as an extension of Zanu-PF to
intimidate its critics. The most recent arrests, of MDC-T candidate
Arnold Tsunga, Okay Machisa of ZimRights
and human rights attorney Beatrice Mtetwa only draw attention to
Zanu-PF’s insincerity about holding a free and fair poll.
There have not
been adequate media reforms. The Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe
deferred or rejected most applications for commercial radio licences,
the state-run Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation remains deeply biased
in favour of Zanu-PF and most journalists operate in a climate of
tenure of the unity government, the security sector has expanded
its influence within the economy, state institutions and Zanu-PF’s
core decision-making bodies, including the Politburo and central
committees. Media reports have turned a spotlight on the involvement
of high-ranking security sector officials in the electoral process.
general in the Zimbabwe Defence Forces and colonels in the army
have subsumed dubious roles that seek to bolster Zanu-PF in each
of the 10 provinces. The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC), despite
being under the stewardship of Justice Rita Makarau, remains under-budgeted,
poorly capacitated and vulnerable to state interference.
The recent special
day for voting by police officers and members of the army painted
an ominous picture of what can be expected next week. Nearly half
the members of the uniformed services were disenfranchised after
failing to cast their votes due to monumental bungling by the ZEC,
which could not deliver ballots on time.
just released by the Research
and Advocacy Unit, a Zimbabwe-based think-tank, found egregious
problems with the voters’ roll. Among them are the fact that
nearly two million potential voters younger than 30 are unregistered
- approximately 29% of the total adult population. The report also
found that roughly one million people believed to be dead remain
on the roll, while in 63 constituencies more registered voters than
actual inhabitants were counted in the most recent official census.
Zanu-PF could also lead to violence. The official position is that
Mugabe is the party’s leader and was always its only legitimate
presidential candidate. However, insecurity over the lack of a chosen
successor has fuelled deep divisions within Zanu-PF. Many of these
internal battles manifested in the public space during the fierce
competition and violence exhibited during the most recent District
Co-ordinating Committee elections, in 2012, as well as during the
most recent primary elections.
about the security sector’s prominence in the country’s
political and economic space threaten to take Zimbabwe back to the
brink of disaster should key leaders within the security sector
feel that their shady accumulation of wealth or personal security
are at risk in the event of an MDC victory.
SADC has staked
its reputation and its credibility on Zimbabwe. Its failure to demand
the full implementation of the GPA, choosing instead to embark on
a strategy of deterrence intended to avert the type of widespread
seen in 2008 and ensure that elections are merely credible (in
other words, less free and less fair), as well as its inability
to force Harare to hold elections in August, is confounding.
A SADC communiqué
released last week after a special summit in Pretoria, which noted
some “problems” during special voting by the police
and army, failed to acknowledge mounting concerns voiced within
the region and the international community. Its anaemic message
should have set out to deter those who seek to spoil the poll.
inability, or unwillingness, to punish bad behaviour will encourage
other spoilers to try to maximise their own positions and interests
over the greater good. We are already witnessing this type of behaviour
It is critical
for SADC member states to apply pressure on those political leaders
who choose their own aberrant path over SADC’s own prescriptive
formula. SADC must sanction those who fail to heed ample warnings
if the regional body is truly to succeed in developing African solutions
for African problems. The real test for SADC and South Africa will
be seen in the event of a presidential run-off. With political tensions
reaching a crescendo and with each party’s determination to
capture power, the possibility of a repeat of 2008 seems almost
inevitable. If violence does erupt once again, the progress that
has been made will be overshadowed and the legitimacy of the GPA’s
efforts will be squandered.
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