A warning against rushed elections

That President Mugabe and Zanu (PF) were gearing up for elections early in 2012 was obvious. What came as a surprise last week was that Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara concurred with Mugabe on the viability of early elections - this is a mistake of major proportions.

A billboard promoting democratic elections on the road to Harare international airport.
A billboard promoting democratic elections on the road to Harare international airport.

Whatever the reasons for pushing for early elections, clearly Zimbabwe is not ready for them. Several critical reforms are outstanding and, if the Global Political Agreement provisions are to be fully implemented, then they are likely to take up all of 2012, leaving 2013 as the realistic year for elections.

Violence alive and well

The recent political violence that rocked Chitungwiza when the Zanu (PF)-aligned

Chipangano militia group successfully blocked the MDC-T from holding a police-sanctioned rally, is testimony that the infrastructure of violence is alive and well. That the police failed to provide security, prevent the violence, or hold accountable those

responsible for the violence, shows clearly that the police remains a ‘captured institution’ subject to partisan conduct and unable to guarantee peace.

The recent, regrettable decision by the Kimberley Process to give a green-light for Marange diamonds to be sold internationally in the absence of proper internal transparency and accountability mechanisms raises a serious possibility that vast quantities of diamond revenue will end up in the wrong hands. It could also quite possibly finance a violent election that would leave the 2008 electoral violence looking like child’s play. The role of financing clandestine, quasi-fiscal activities that

was played by the Reserve Bank in the lead-up to 2008, elections may now be played by the mines ministry headed by Zanu (PF)’s Obert Mpofu.

I am sure all Zimbabweans want elections as soon as possible to resolve the question of the State legitimacy, but only when those elections are held under the right conditions. There must be clear mechanisms to prevent violence and to inspire the confidence of the electorate so they can vote freely, without fear of harm. At present people do not feel confident or secure. The negative conditions that prevailed in 2008 remain. Although the MDC has been in the inclusive government since February 2009, that has done little to change the attitude of the leadership of the security forces who remain aligned to Zanu (PF).

Settled matter

Last week various Zanu (PF) structures, including the Midlands province and the Women’s League, publicly endorsed the candidature of President Mugabe for the next presidential elections. Both party chairperson (Simon Khaya Moyo) and party spokesperson (Rugare Gumbo) have indicated that Zanu (PF)’s annual conference scheduled for December 6 to 10 in Bulawayo will not discuss the candidature of Mugabe as it is a settled matter.

These developments indicate serious preparation for early elections where Zanu (PF) may feel confident that a combination of factors, including firm support from the security forces, assisted campaigns by a partisan state media, covert violence and intimidation and vote buying through various schemes associated with the implementation of the indigenization programme, will deliver an electoral victory to Mugabe and his supporters. I agree with this analysis.

To go to elections early next year, in the absence of credible reforms, would be to deliver another illegitimate victory to Zanu (PF). That victory will, just like in 2008, be unable to resolve the State legitimacy question. It will only lead to another cycle of negotiations that will result in another ‘power-sharing’ agreement that will likely set back Zimbabwe’s transition by a decade or more.

No rush

I see no valid reasons why the MDC formations should want to rush into elections when conditions are not right. Our next election will be a make or break election. It must be properly prepared for. It would be unwise for political parties to commit to premature elections where they may be forced to withdraw at the last minute. It would be most naïve to underestimate Zanu (PF)’s capacity to unleash violence, or its strangle-hold on the various ‘captured institutions’ including those responsible for justice administration and elections management.

The single message that should emerge from all pro-democracy forces is that Zimbabwe should only go for elections when there are guarantees that they will be genuinely free and fair, without violence or intimidation. SADC and the AU should be pressured to deploy a peace-keeping force on the ground ahead of the elections as a confidence building measure to assure people that no harm will visit them on account of the political preference.

The rest of the international community should then support the regional peace-keeping force to give Zimbabweans a chance to make a fresh start. Talk of elections should only be entertained when there are mechanisms in place to protect the voter, protect the vote and to secure the secrecy of the vote.

Post published in: Politics

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *