Letter from America

SADC and Africa are celebrating yet another example of progressive democracy.

The Zambian elections last week ended with the victory of the opposition Patriotic Front leader, Michael Sata, who defeated Movement for Multi-party Democracy leader and the country’s president, Rupiah Banda.

The elections were observed by monitors from around the world. They were, for the most part, peaceful and orderly. And this has been the typical pattern in almost all SADC countries with the notable exception of Zimbabwe.

Elections in Mozambique, Botswana, South Africa, Namibia, Tanzania, proved beyond reasonable doubt that SADC and Africa have now embraced the democratic culture of free and fair elections.

When the West accused President Robert Mugabe and Zanu (PF) of manipulating the elections in a frantic bid to stay in power indefinitely, they responded by accusing the West of trying to impose their values of democracy and human rights on Zimbabwe.

They also argued that they would espouse African and not western values of democracy.

When Mugabe repeated ad nauseam the anti-colonial rhetoric, he met with some success in rallying African heads of state to his way of thinking. But many are tiring of this diatribe, which increasingly sounds like a broken record.

SADC and Africa are insisting on strict adherence to democratic principles of free and fair elections as well as freedom of speech and the press.

It does not need a rocket scientist to understand that democracy and the conduct of free and fair elections is based on simple ideals, namely, the people have the sovereign power to elect who they want to govern them. As such, the people should be able to cast their votes in an environment that is free of violence, coercion, intimidation and the manipulation of the electoral process.

Governments should protect citizens from violence and intimidation as they cast their ballots. Casting ballots is an administrative act by the voters. This is the only time people technically and theoretically get to govern themselves, even if it is only for one or two days.

The problem with elections in Zimbabwe is that Mugabe and ZANU (PF) have rejected the following tenets of free and fair elections:

  • security sector reform – the police, army and C IO should not interfere in the election process and should accept and respect the election results and whoever wins.
  • overhaul of the voters roll to make sure all qualified Zimbabweans have their names registered and that Zimbabweans who do not qualify for variety of reasons are not on the roll.
  • election monitors from a variety of countries – including the West. Mugabe insists they will only invite their friends – i.e. those who are supportive and sympathetic to his repression of Zimbabweans.
  • the repeal of AIPPA and POSA, the two viciously repressive legislations that have given the police extraordinary powers to ban meetings of the MDC-T.
  • the right of the Zimbabweans in Diaspora to vote in the countries where they are located.

Patrick Chinamanasa said the government does not have resources to conduct voting among the Diaspora. Almost immediately, a number of countries and international organizations offered to finance the external Diaspora vote. To which Zanu (PF) responded that Zimbabwe, as a sovereign country, would fund its own elections!

Mugabe and Zanu (PF) have rejected the use of the state media to give equal access to all political parties that will be contesting the elections. They are also dragging their feet on giving licenses for independent broadcasting in Zimbabwe.

What is puzzling SADC and the international community is that Mugabe’s version of democracy is in direct conflict not only with the West, but with SADC and African countries.

In most other African countries, citizens enjoy a free press, free and fair elections, and a transparent and democratic voting system where an independent electoral commission conducts the elections and announces the results.

And why does Mugabe want to stay in office indefinitely? He wants to avoid being tried for crimes against humanity once he leaves office. He and his cronies also want to continue to breast feed on Zimbabwe’s national and public resources, something they can only do when they are in power.

Like monkeys in a zoo, Mugabe and his entourage of 100 hangers-on were stranded in New York last weekend after their chartered aging Air Zimbabwe jet burst tires when it landed to take them home from the United Nations meeting.

Post published in: Letters to the Editor

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