Transition to democracy depends on strong institutions

The results of the inquest into the death of former army commander and Zanu (PF) strongman, General Solomon Mujuru, have been released. There are no surprises. Despite strong evidence pointing to foul play, magistrate Walter Chikwanha has ruled out foul play and concluded that the general died of smoke inhalation.

Dewa Mavhinga
Dewa Mavhinga

No-one expected a compromised and partisan judiciary to arrive at a different conclusion. This underlines the underlying challenge for Zimbabwe – and the need for strong, democratic institutions to facilitate a smooth, irreversible transition to democracy. President Mugabe and Zanu (PF)’s power is based on weak institutions under the control of strong individuals who use them to serve Zanu (PF) interests. Take the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission, which is meant to manage free and fair elections. It is populated at secretariat level with military elements and security agents who can be relied on to serve partisan interests. The push for a fresh recruitment of all ZEC staff is meant to restore a measure of independence to the institution.

SADC and the AU must closely examine Zimbabwe’s key institutions and test them for independence, impartiality and professionalism. Zanu (PF) may resist further reforms to ensure the independence of state institutions such as state media, the judiciary, the police and the military, but it is vital that SADC develop mechanisms to measure levels of institutional independence.

If President Mugabe and Zanu (PF) are as confident about winning the next election on the basis of ideas and policies as they claim, then surely they must not object to the democratization of key state institutions? The truth of the matter is that Zanu (PF) cannot survive without the use of violence, coercion and patronage.

British journalist Alex Duval Smith got it all wrong recently when he suggested that the ruinous indigenization policies had helped Mugabe win over the nation again. ‘We are not a naïve lot’

Indigenization in its current form is driven by political expedience, and primarily rewards Mugabe’s cronies – but with devastating consequences for the economy.

Zimbabweans have not been fooled. They know only a few politically connected will benefit, just as was the case with the violent and chaotic land grab. For ordinary Zimbabweans, all they will get are crumbs that fall from the Zanu (PF) table, if they get anything. We are not a naïve lot.

The community share schemes from the indigenization policies and diamond revenue from Marange will not buy Zanu (PF) support. That party’s survival will be based on a covert deployment of violence and intimidation and on a continued subversion of key state institutions. The institution of traditional chiefs has already come out in support of Mugabe and his call for early elections.

But this operation will be clothed in the rhetoric that Zanu (PF) has regained support – the trap that Alex Duval Smith has fallen into. Not surprisingly, the state-owned but Zanu (PF) aligned Herald newspaper gloated over Smith’s article and reproduced it in the Saturday edition.

Zanu (PF) may be quoting Chinese support in domestic politics, but SADC and the AU remain decisive game-changers for us. – Dewa Mavhinga, Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition Regional Coordinator

Post published in: News

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