Elections 2011: what SADC’s must do

election_violence_injuredTHE recent announcement by President Robert Mugabe that elections are to be held sometime next year must have resulted in a lot of people feeling sick with worry as they know from recent history what holding elections in Zimbabwe encompasses. (Pictured: A victim o

Zimbabwean elections have become synonymous with violence, killing, house burning and intimidation. It is no secret that Zanu (PF), the former ruling party, is responsible for this violence which it applies as a hegemonic instrument to desperately hold on to power.

The liberation party has over the years lost the support of the majority of Zimbabweans due to corruption, nepotism, mismanagement, poor policy formulation and implementation, a disregard for the rule of law and a general lack of respect for the citizenry.

The peoples disillusionment with Zanu (PF) was elucidated in the 2008 presidential and parliamentary elections in which Morgan Richard Tsvangirai won most of the vote and his MDC party won the majority of the seats in the lower house of parliament.

The response from Zanu (PF) was to not recognise the peoples will, instead the liberation party — through the infamous and powerful Joint Operations Command (JOC) and its militia — unleashed a terrifying wave of violence on unarmed citizens throughout the country.

Another violent poll

Over 200 people were killed and thousands more were displaced. This violence was orchestrated as a means to force the people to vote correctly in the run-off election.

As has since become historical fact, Tsvangirai withdrew from participating in the run-off election due to the violence unleashed by the state security forces on his unarmed party members and supporters.

SADC, under the auspices of South African President Thabo Mbeki, intervened in the crisis and the result was a negotiated settlement (between the two main protagonists as well as another faction of the opposition) which gave birth to the Government of National Unity (GNU) which has proven to be a marriage of inconvenience characterised by much fighting and sometimes squabbling between the political parties.

Now, as Zimbabweans brace themselves for yet another election in 2011, the situation on the ground points to the worrisome fact that this poll is also going to be a violent one, maybe even more bloody than the previous one.

Zanu (PF)-loyal war veterans such as the much feared Jabulani Sibanda are already intimidating people in Masvingo province and it is alleged that torture bases are already being set up in various parts of the country in preparation of terrorising MDC party members and supporters in the upcoming elections.

The recent violence unleashed by Zanu PF members on MDC supporters in Mbare during the constitution-making process is an indicator that violence will definitely characterise the elections next year.

New constitution

The global political agreement (GPA) signed by the three main political parties has not been fully implemented and it doesnt appear as if President Mugabe and Zanu (PF) are going to do so any time soon. This is a major cause for concern as this agreement envisages electoral and political reforms which would result in a free and fair election.

The envisaged new constitution is also meant to be a guide to elections that reflect the will of the people and whose results are respected by all. According to the GPA timeframe, a new constitution is to be in place before the next election, but this is looking increasingly unlikely at the moment.

The Southern African Development Community (SADC) under the direction of South Africa is guarantor of the GPA that led to the Government of National Unity in Zimbabwe. Current leader of South Africa President Jacob Zuma, who succeeded President Thabo Mbeki, was given the mandate to oversee the Zimbabwean crisis by SADC and he will be partly blamed if the political situation deteriorates in the country.

The Zimbabwean political crisis has a lot of social, political and economic implications for the SADC region and therefore political leaders in the region have a responsibility to ensure that the problems facing Zimbabwe are resolved as a matter of urgency.

Past interventions by SADC and the AU in the crisis have left many doubting whether the regional body has any capabilities in handling its own problems and whether it really serves the interests of the people of Zimbabwe and those of the sub region in general.

Resolutions from SADC meetings on the Zimbabwean crisis have not been respected by Zanu (PF) and the regional body has done nothing much to reprimand the former Zimbabwean ruling party.

Xhead) Toothless dog

SADCs continued lack of tangible action in the face of Zanu PF insubordination has led to the organisation being labeled a toothless dog. Other political analysts have alleged that some SADC leaders are biased in handling the Zimbabwean issue as they are loyal to Mugabe and Zanu PF who supported them in their own struggles against colonisation.

Whilst loyalty is an admirable quality to possess it becomes meaningless and misdirected when the person one is loyal to continue to behave in a senseless manner which can also lead to ones own destruction. Such loyalty can thus be labeled as irresponsibility.

SADC leaders therefore have to be proactive in ensuring that the situation in Zimbabwe is resolved, they can start doing by making sure that the political environment in the country is conducive for free and fair elections whose results are respected.

The following recommendations (most of them taken from the Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition) are ways in which SADC can guarantee a free and fair poll in Zimbabwe:

a) Call upon the Zimbabwes political leadership to fully implement the Global Political Agreement (GPA) and end the culture of violence, corruption and impunity.

b) Closely monitor current constitutional reform process in Zimbabwe to ensure that a new, democratic constitution is in place before Zimbabwe holds fresh elections.

c) Supervise Zimbabwes next elections for full compliance with regional guidelines for free and fair elections.

d) Facilitate technical support to the newly established Zimbabwe Elections Commission by SADC Elections Commissions Forum and ensure impartiality, greater efficiency and capacity to deliver a free and fair poll.

e) Deploy peacekeeping monitors at least 4 months prior to the elections and 2 months after the elections to maintain peace and prevent violence and intimidation.

f) Not recognise an illegitimately won election.

The way in which SADC handles the Zimbabwean elections and the crisis in general will have a profound effect on the sub region and ultimately on its mother body the African Union (AU)s credibility. The Zimbabwean situation will especially have a direct impact on others perceptions of regional powerhouse South Africa as a leader on the African continent and a player in world affairs. The forthcoming elections indeed provide an opportunity for SADC to be taken seriously.

Kudzai Mtero is a political and social analyst. You can contact him at: [email protected]

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