cc. All Sadc Heads of State
18 August 2014
REF: Zimbabwe needs an urgent return to legitimacy
1. The Disputed Election
Your Excellencies, I am writing to you one year after yet another disputed election in Zimbabwe, even if that disputed election was held under the auspices of Sadc and the African Union.
It was Sadc that insisted on the implementation of reforms before the conduct of that election. At the Sadc summit in Maputo on June 15, 2013, the regional body insisted on key reforms as necessary before any elections were held in Zimbabwe.
The key Sadc resolution at the summit in Maputo was that the Zimbabwe government was mandated to engage the Constitutional Court to postpone the election from July 31 to enable reforms to take place. That postponement did not happen and the country went to the polls in the absence of key reforms that Sadc itself had said were at the heart of the conduct for a truly free and fair election.
As I write this letter, President Mugabe has confirmed that on-going internal elections in his own party are being rigged amid allegations of vote-buying and kidnappings.
2. The 2013 Election Itself
The 2013 election was not held in strict accordance with the Sadc guidelines, on the conduct of free and fair elections.
Sadc noted serious shortcomings in the way the poll was conducted. A report of any Sadc Election Observer Mission is supposed to make reference to the Sadc Guidelines Governing the Conduct of Democratic Elections, which should act as the basis for judging the freeness, fairness and credibility of the election.
Regrettably the Sadc Election Observer Mission report was silent on the guidelines governing the conduct of democratic elections.
Its conclusion, therefore, that the Zimbabwe election satisfied Sadc guidelines defied simple logic.
The Sadc report was self contradictory, inconsistent and incoherent. It raised issues that rendered the 31 July 2013 election unfair and not credible but at the same time concluded its report by "elevating" the election to a credible one.
For example, the report stated "..the provision of voters' roll in time goes to the very heart of fairness in the election process. If the voters' roll is not made available on time, the fairness of the election is brought into question…"
Having made this point, the Observer Mission also noted that the voters' roll was not made available on time and yet still made the conclusion that the election was credible. If a voters' roll is at the heart of the freeness and fairness of an election, how was it possible to have a credible election in the absence of an electronic copy of the roll, which we still have not received to this day in brazen defiance of the law?
Curiously and tellingly, the Sadc observer mission report did not in any away refer to the July poll as having been "fair." Sadc only said the election was peaceful and credible. The question remains whether an unfair election can in any way be described as having been credible as Sadc concluded in its report.
Zimbabwe proceeded to hold its polls in the absence of key reforms as stated by the guarantors. It remains ironic that the same Sadc observer mission regarded the polls as credible even though they were held in the absence of key reforms and its own observer mission had noted glaring shortcomings in the manner the elections were held.
Given the bloodshed in the Zimbabwe elections since 2000, Sadc's objectivity appears to have been affected by the relative peace ahead of the last election.
While the Sadc guidelines speak of an election that is free, fair, peaceful and credible, it appears there are different standards for Zimbabwe where only the absence of violence appears to mean a credible election, even in circumstances where the regional body found it hard to describe the election as having been fair.
The mere absence of violence is no testimony to a credible election as there is also soft violence and issues to do with fairness, which fairness Sadc itself tellingly refused to associate with our election of July 2013.
Furthermore, the MDC has produced a report chronicling the militarisation and the glaring shortcomings of the 2013 election. That report was sent to all diplomatic missions accredited to Zimbabwe soon after the last election and it includes:
a) Massive disenfranchisement of the people by refusing them to register as voters in areas perceived to be MDC strongholds.
b) The deliberate withholding of the voters' roll to other contesting parties and the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission by the Registrar General of Voters in collusion with security operatives.
c) Abuse of both traditional leaders and security chiefs to campaign for Zanu PF in violation of clear constitutional provisions.
d) Massive intimidation and coercion by both security chiefs and traditional leaders in most areas.
e) Total monopoly of the public media by Zanu PF and the exclusion of other political parties.
The African Union Election Observer mission also noted various irregularities from the voters' roll and the conduct of the state media, among many issues, but still claimed the poll was credible.
The report reads in part: "The AUEOM's emphasis, however, was on the function of the public broadcaster which has a central role in elections, in terms of the AU Charter (2007), to provide a platform for airing political messages or news coverage emanating from all political contestants. Further, the Constitution of Zimbabwe provides fair opportunity for the presentation of divergent views and opinions.
In this regard, the AUEOM noted that the national broadcaster tended to provide live and in-depth coverage largely to a single political party."
On the voters' roll, the AU said: "The AUEOM continued to express concerns about the matter of the Voters' Roll. Despite assertions by the RGV that hard copies of the voter's roll were availed to all political parties, – other than for one political party – AUEOM observers found no evidence that hard copies were generally available to all who required them and who by law should have them."
Thus, despite the serious reservations on the elections by the two guarantors of the inclusive government, both the AU and Sadc still endorsed the poll, whose disastrous results have brought the economy to its knees with a serious need now to return the country to legitimacy through a truly free and fair election.
3. One year after: the crisis
One year after the disputed poll, the country's economy is on a free fall. One million children are out of school while the government is struggling to meet basic social services such as health, education and the provision of clean water.
But perhaps more tellingly and more ominously, the government is struggling to meet the monthly salary bill for its 350 000 workforce.
Pay-slips of the country's civil servants have no next month's pay dates as the government is not certain whether it would have mobilised sufficient resources to pay its own workers. A government that is failing to pay its own workers is a ticking time bomb that Sadc should be seriously concerned with.
All attempts by the MDC to initiate internal dialogue and resolve the Zimbabwean crisis have been spurned by the government, leaving the MDC with no option but to seek the intervention of Sadc.
b) A crisis of the economy
With its genesis from what many believe to be an illegitimate government, the country's economy is in turmoil.
There is a serious liquidity crunch while revenue collections have drastically dwindled, typified by government's failure to meet its wage bill.
At a time when our economy needs a massive capital injection, no one is prepared to invest in the country and FDI has dried up. There is absolutely no trust and confidence in this government. This is the same government that, five years ago, raided and mopped up private and corporate foreign currency accounts that have yet to be repaid.
The first danger warning sign for the economy was when about $1 billion was spirited out of the economy barely a week after the election, the clearest indication of the erosion of investor confidence as a result of that disputed election.
You have the office of the President being at the centre of encouraging lawlessness through needless farm seizures that have caused one farmer and his daughter to lose their lives.
The highest office in the land has become a source of insecurity by encouraging more farm seizures in violation of the national Constitution.
The social services sector is collapsing and urban councils are failing to provide clean water to the millions of citizens that stay in the country's cities and towns.
Whereas in 2008 we were faced with hyperinflationary conditions, today we are in a serious deflation as there is just no money circulating in the country.
I recently published a treatise on my personal reflections, in which I described the country as having been turned into a huge mall of vendors; indeed a highly informal economy in which everyone is trying to sell something to someone.
The unemployment level in the country, projected at around 85 percent has become an issue of national instability if nothing is done in the very immediate future.
To sum up our dire economic situation, the World Bank's Doing Business Report ranks Zimbabwe 158 out of 183 countries while the World Economic Forum's (WEF) Global competitiveness report places us at 133 out of 143 countries.
Shockingly, President Mugabe recently said the economy was on the mend. The President is so divorced from the grim reality facing the nation to the extent that the country has simply become a radar-less ship allowing the winds of fate to drift it in these high seas of political denial and uncertainty. No effort to solve the crisis can be made by a President who is so much in denial about the national situation.
The crisis of governance Our government is not only struggling to meet its basic obligations but has now shunned any pretence towards democratic governance. Chief among its many crimes is government's failure to align the country's 400 laws to a new Constitution overwhelmingly endorsed by the people of Zimbabwe in May last year.
In that Constitution, among many progressive provisions, Zimbabweans said they wanted devolution but a year after the election, that revolutionary provision has not in any way been implemented as the governance system remains highly centralised.
Elected provincial councils are yet to be sworn in. What the Zanu PF government has done instead is to appoint Ministers of Provincial Affairs even in the two metropolitan provinces such as Harare and Bulawayo which they do not control.
That Constitution is one of our major success stories as the democratic movement in Zimbabwe but the government is developing frozen feet in living true to the wishes and aspirations of the citizens as expressed in that contract with the people on how they want to be governed.
Ours is a government that is contemptuous of any agreement with anyone and has dismally failed to pay its own debts. We now have an unserviced external debt of over $10 billion.
We have not met our side of the bargain on many bilateral and multilateral agreements while companies and other properties owned by foreigners have been seized in violation of BIPPAs.
As we write to you, we are aware that Mr Mugabe, the man at the centre of the illegitimate government in Harare, is the incoming chairperson of Sadc.
It is in this respect that we hope that the Sadc troika, to which we have addressed this letter, will take seriously our position on the developments in this country, which developments are slowly gravitating towards an inevitable implosion.
We in the MDC have waited long enough for truly free and fair elections. We have great faith in Sadc as an institution and the dedication of its member states to ensure peace and good, democratic governance in our region.
Despite Mr Mugabe's chairing of the regional body, we urge all member states to take into cognisance the grievous and parlous state of the economic and political situation in Zimbabwe.
We in the MDC will not be looking forward to events taking care of themselves, or to expect this illegal government to take seriously their responsibility by ensuring a return to legitimacy or stemming the unfolding economic and political tide.
Our Constitution, to which our colleagues in Zanu PF have no iota of respect, makes it certain that it is within the rights of citizens to engage in peaceful protests.
We in the MDC are drawing a line in the sand and we hereby inform our colleagues in Sadc, well in advance, that the people of Zimbabwe shall be writing their own script for an endgame to the struggle for freedom and democracy in Zimbabwe.
The multi-layered crisis in the country is stemming from the crisis of legitimacy, arising from the stolen election of July 31, 2013.
It is a crisis that can only be resolved by a return to confidence and legitimacy, which can only happen once this country holds a truly free and fair election predicated on those reforms that Sadc itself had insisted on, before allowing the election to proceed in the absence of the same reforms.
It is our belief that the Sadc role does not begin and end with elections. Sadc has a role to play in this country, especially in the face of a debilitating crisis and the government's failure to implement a national Constitution written and endorsed by millions of the country's citizens.
There was a crisis of monumental proportions when Sadc intervened in 2008 and the region cannot just watch while the situation deteriorates to yet another crisis of a similar magnitude.
In 2008, Sadc intervened, not just to stem a serious political and economic crisis, but also to create conditions for a free and fair election that would return the country to legitimacy, which legitimacy is still to be achieved even after yet another election.
We hope that Sadc will not abdicate its responsibility and will stand by the people of this country, not the country's leadership, when the people demand a return to legitimacy through peaceful, democratic and constitutional means.
Accept, your Excellency, the assurances of my highest consideration.
Morgan Richard TsvangiraiPost published in: Letters to the Editor