A democratic promise in peril? PDF Print E-mail
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Monday, 15 July 2013 19:21

From the Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum – 9 July 2013

According to The Declaration of Principles for International Election Observation and the Code of Conduct for International Election Observers, ‘ 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’.  These principles based on inclusion, participation and respect for peoples’ will are contained in other several regional and international standards to which Zimbabwe is a State Party, for example in the SADC Principles and Guidelines governing democratic elections, article 4 of the SADC the Treaty, Article 13(1) of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, and  Article 25(a)- (b) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. 

 In its bid to balance its responsibility to protect the will and rights of Zimbabwean citizens and Zimbabwe’s inherent sovereignty, the international community has been interpreting the above provisions with due care and sensitivity.  Its approach has mainly been premised on the wisdom found in supporting efforts by SADC especially South Africa as the guarantor and mediator of the Zimbabwean political agreement.  

Now the question is whether this approach has worked. Given Zimbabwe’s current anti-western policy foreign policy, this appeared to be the best way of approaching the Zimbabwean crisis. However with only three weeks from the elections, this approach is facing very serious challenges. In his speech at the launch of ZANU PF’s election manifesto, President Mugabe fired his first salvo at SADC. He referred to Lindiwe Zulu, the senior facilitator on the South African mediation team as being stupid, a streetwalker (prostitute) and a silly young woman. He threatened to take Zimbabwe out of SADC and lambasted the President of South Africa and other leaders of southern African States. Simultaneously, the Zimbabwe Constitutional Court was making a decision that undermined SADC’s views.

According to one analyst, this has created a scary state of affairs whereby ‘SADC seems to be sulking and disengaging. They are giving up! Since the infamous Constitutional Court ruling last week they have not looked like ready to get their hands dirty on the back of what is going on and the latest Robert Mugabe outburst have not helped’

President Mugabe’s approach is not without tactic or precedent. His conduct is more or less a dramatization of his 2008 presidential run off when he sprinted in a one man ‘100 meters’ presidential race all by himself. This spectacular scene was subsequently captured in Sacha Baron Cohen's 2012 comedy ‘The Dictator’, especially in the scene when Aladeen is competing in his nation's Olympic games and running a sprint of some kind. As soon as this "race" starts, he shoots all the other competitors with the gun he used to start the race and the finish line is intentionally sent closer to him so he can win the race. In the current presidential race, President Mugabe’s tactic is akin to shooting other competitors. However he has gone further by threatening to shoot the umpire-SADC.

Despite the overwhelming show of support for the MDC at the recent Manifesto Launch, analysts are skeptical that such following will translate into a win for the MDC. One analyst says ‘What always happens, that might happen again, is that MDC-T will win the majority vote but after everything has been tallied, ZANU-PF wins the election and rules. Both parties are claiming a resounding victory at the upcoming elections of the 31st July, 2013. Both are most likely to be victors, under the circumstances I have just described above. With no likelihood of another GPA, we are headed for interesting times ahead’.

Another analyst echoes these sentiments by saying that given the lack of institutional and legislative reform which would give rise to a credible electoral process, if you add these, the math is simple, we will end up with another illegitimate election and unity government’ David Coltart, MP, makes a more or less similar observation ‘What is crystal clear is that the hardliners in ZANU PF are absolutely committed to subverting the electoral process. It is all summed up in Robert Mugabe's statement contained in the Herald today:" We do not want observers to go away with the impression we won because we were using violence. That must be avoided. Let just the numbers talk.” 'I am confident there will be minimal violence - their strategy is simply to "let numbers talk" - and we are talking about numbers not people, not actual voters. Their strategy is clear - we must anticipate stuffing of ballots and rigging on a massive scale’.The above observations are given credibility by the recent groundbreaking analysis by the Research and Advocacy Unit, whose Report unearths severe discrepancies in the voters’ roll.

In this analysis, we will not delve into the details of how ZANU has created an uneven terrain since this area has been covered extensively in previous report such as the Robert F Kennedy Centre’s recent research.Suffice it that a lack of progress on reforms outlined in the Global Political Agreement; increased intimidation, threats, and violence against civil society; and violations of the rights to freedom of expression and access to information constitute some of the key grave concerns.

Further, what is even more frightening is the attack on SADC, which is similar to shooting an umpire before the beginning of the race. This, in our view, is calculated to cause confusion and to intimidate SADC so that it doesn’t carry out its mandate without fear, favour and prejudice.  The tactic can also be seen as way of hiding ZANU PF’s shallow policies, which according to analysts are simply a repetition of their old failed policies that brought the country to its knees. Despite our best efforts, we have not found the manifesto online. 

According to an article by Derek Smail, ‘Zanu PF makes three main proposals in its manifesto: they promise to take over, without compensation, 51 per cent of the shareholding in 1139 companies and lists the sectors that will be involved (380 in mining, 244 in tourism) and claims that this will yield $7 billion in cash for the revitalization of the economy; they would use some of these resources to refinance the parastatals; and then finally they would bring back the Zimbabwe dollar and arranging for the new currency to be backed by gold'.

 Given that the elections are only three weeks away, it is not likely that Zimbabweans will be in a position to exercise their democratic right to decide their future and if they do, it most unlikely that the outcome of the election will be respected especially given the weight of evidence highlighted above. How should the international community react under these circumstances? 

As we highlighted in our previous article, this is not the time for the international community to whisper on the Zimbabwean human rights situation but shout, as it were, with a diplomatic megaphone. The international community must not only speak with one voice, it must speak loudly and without hesitation. It is high time that the international community translated words into action and bring back human rights centre-stage. It must not accept or otherwise legitimize a government that is birthed from an illegitimate process. To do so would be an abdication of its responsibility to protect the free expression by Zimbabweans  which provides the basis for the authority and legitimacy of any future government.


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