Zanu-PF hold­ing tightly to its au­thor­i­tar­ian rule over Zim

The party, which has been in power since in­de­pen­dence in 1980, has ap­plied any means nec­es­sary to main­tain its po­si­tion. Elec­tions or no elec­tions, it is ready to de­fend its power, writes Enock C Mudza­miri

The Star Late Edition - - INSIDE - Enock C Mudza­miri, D Litt et Phil Stu­dent in Pol­i­tics, Uni­ver­sity of South Africa

ZIM­BABWE’S con­sti­tu­tion re­quires it to hold elec­tions by July next year. It seems un­likely that the coun­try’s po­lit­i­cal sys­tem will be re­formed in time to en­sure the elec­tion is free and fair. The op­po­si­tion will there­fore again be at a dis­ad­van­tage.

It seems to have aban­doned its calls for re­form and is fo­cus­ing on build­ing coali­tions.

It is widely be­lieved that the gov­ern­ment does not rep­re­sent the peo­ple. Elec­toral fraud has been com­mon over the years and the coun­try’s so­cio-eco­nomic cri­sis con­tin­ues.

In South Africa and Namibia, for­mer lib­er­a­tion move­ments have main­tained their dom­i­nance through cred­i­ble elec­tions. The polls have met legal and in­ter­na­tion­ally ac­cepted cri­te­ria.

But in Zim­babwe, the rul­ing Zanu-PF has dom­i­nated by abus­ing the coun­try’s po­lit­i­cal and elec­toral sys­tems.

Elec­tions have of­ten been deadly for the op­po­si­tion.

Zanu-PF, which has been in power since in­de­pen­dence in 1980, has ap­plied any means nec­es­sary to hold on to this po­si­tion. Elec­tions or no elec­tions, the party is ready to de­fend its power.

It ma­nip­u­lated the elec­toral process in 2000, 2002, 2008 and 2013. It lost elec­tions to the main op­po­si­tion, the Move­ment for Demo­cratic Change (MDC), in March 2008 but re­fused to con­cede de­feat.

Con­trary to ear­lier prac­tice when pres­i­den­tial, par­lia­men­tary and lo­cal gov­ern­ment elec­tions were con­ducted separately, the har­monised elec­tions com­bined all of them into one. The elec­tions in 2008 were the first. This led to a bloody pres­i­den­tial run-off in June 2008.

The in­cum­bent Zanu-PF president claimed to have won again.

A coali­tion gov­ern­ment was formed in 2009 and the par­ties ne­go­ti­ated a new con­sti­tu­tion, which was ap­proved in 2013. The Zanu-PF won the 2013 elec­tions.

Although there was no ev­i­dence of po­lit­i­cal vi­o­lence in 2013, forms of elec­toral chi­canery were ev­i­dent, com­pro­mis­ing the le­git­i­macy of the re­sults.

Af­ter its 2013 “de­feat”, the MDC re­solved not to con­test any elec­tions un­til the sys­tem was fair.

To­gether with other (smaller) op­po­si­tion par­ties, it boy­cotted all by-elec­tions for the lo­cal gov­ern­ment and the leg­is­la­ture from 2013.

These par­ties and cer­tain civil so­ci­ety or­gan­i­sa­tions gath­ered un­der the um­brella of the Na­tional Elec­toral Re­form Agenda (Nera). The group aimed to ad­dress prob­lems that com­pro­mised the cred­i­bil­ity of elec­tions in Zim­babwe.

There are four main rea­sons why elec­toral in­sti­tu­tions in the coun­try are in ur­gent need of re­form.

Mu­nic­i­pal law should align with con­ven­tions such as the African Char­ter on Democ­racy, Elec­tions and Gov­er­nance.

The Elec­toral Act should align with the new con­sti­tu­tion. The con­sis­tently flawed elec­toral process has cre­ated a cri­sis of le­git­i­macy.

Ma­nip­u­la­tion of the elec­toral process pre­vents a trans­fer of power in Zim­babwe.

The Na­tional Elec­toral Re­form Agenda should be the pri­mary tar­get for re­form. It has no cred­i­bil­ity and has long been con­sid­ered in­de­pen­dent on pa­per only. Other tar­gets for re­form in­clude:

● The ju­di­ciary: Most judges are per­ceived as sym­pa­thetic to the rul­ing party’s in­ter­ests be­cause they are part of its pa­tron­age net­work.

● The se­cu­rity sec­tor: The mil­i­tary, in­tel­li­gence and po­lice are widely con­sid­ered par­ti­san.

● The bu­reau­cracy, es­pe­cially se­nior ap­point­ments: These are sub­ject to ma­nip­u­la­tion by the rul­ing party.

● Reg­u­la­tions and laws that al­low cit­i­zens to take part freely in the elec­toral process, such as the Pub­lic Or­der and Se­cu­rity Act.

In line with the new con­sti­tu­tion of 2013, the Zim­babwe Elec­toral Com­mis­sion (ZEC) made some changes. Some were vol­un­tary and oth­ers were re­quired by the new con­sti­tu­tion.

Vol­un­tary re­forms are mostly ad­min­is­tra­tive. For ex­am­ple, voter reg­is­tra­tion is based on polling sta­tions and on bio­met­ric in­for­ma­tion.

Manda­tory or legal re­forms in­clude the cre­ation of a new vot­ers roll, keep­ing it se­cure, giv­ing it to can­di­dates in time and im­prov­ing voter ed­u­ca­tion.

The ZEC has also been work­ing more closely with po­lit­i­cal par­ties, to stim­u­late con­fi­dence in the elec­toral process.

These spe­cific achieve­ments are im­por­tant. But they are prob­a­bly not enough. They fall short of Nera’s calls. And elec­tions are threat­ened by po­lit­i­cal vi­o­lence, abuse of state re­sources by the rul­ing party and vote-buy­ing.

The ZEC’s re­forms must take place within the frame­work of other sys­temic changes out­lined above.

The Zanu-PF has man­aged to de­lay the de­bate on elec­toral re­forms and the re­form of the elec­toral act. There will not be enough time to make the changes be­fore the 2018 elec­tions. The op­po­si­tion’s “Grand Coali­tion” is not likely to chal­lenge the Zanu-PF suc­cess­fully.

That party sees it­self as hav­ing brought democ­racy to Zim­babwe. It will not re­form it­self out of power. In­di­vid­u­als in the gov­ern­ment and the se­cu­rity ap­pa­ra­tus are loyal to the rul­ing party.

The thin line be­tween the party and state has a di­rect bear­ing on the po­lit­i­cal cul­ture of mil­i­tari­sa­tion of gov­ern­ment busi­ness, fear and re­pres­sion.

In prac­tice, no dis­tinc­tion ex­ists be­tween the gov­ern­ment and Zanu-PF of­fi­cials, es­pe­cially in the se­cu­rity sec­tor. The party and state are heav­ily con­flated.

The Min­istry of Jus­tice controls the fi­nances of the Elec­tion Man­age­ment Body. The gov­ern­ment can get the EMB to waste time so that re­forms will not threaten the Zanu-PF’s stran­gle­hold in the next year’s elec­tions.

Un­less civil so­ci­ety sus­tains its pres­sure for re­form and suc­ceeds, the elec­tions will serve only to le­git­imise con­tin­ued au­thor­i­tar­ian rule in Zim­babwe. – The Con­ver­sa­tion


RUL­ING FOR LIFE? Zim­bab­wean President Robert Mu­gabe, cen­tre, in­spects a guard of hon­our mounted for him be­fore the open­ing of par­lia­ment in Harare, Zim­babwe on Tues­day. The flawed elec­toral process has cre­ated a cri­sis of le­git­i­macy and ne­ces­si­tated a re­form of elec­toral in­sti­tu­tions in the coun­try, says the writer.

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