Democracy in action; that is now key
SADC must ensure it flourishes through elections in the region
IWAS in the Zimbabwean capital Harare when things started falling apart for former strongman Robert Mugabe. In fact, trouble had been brewing for some time, thanks to garrulous former first lady Grace Mugabe, who drove a wedge between him and his trusted lieutenants in the ruling party, which led to his ousting under military pressure last November.
Grace had grown men grovelling before her in bids to stay in her good books and curry favour with the head of state. She led the charge insulting current president, Emmerson Mnangagwa, then Mugabe’s deputy, and even dared the army chief to shoot her in one video that became a hit on social media.
Mugabe did not rein in his wife, giving the impression of tacit support for her utterances.
That she had ambition to succeed her husband was no secret. However, she crossed the line when she pushed for the ousting of Mnangagwa, who had to flee the country, fearing for his life after his firing by Mugabe.
Simmering discontent snowballed that weekend into an uprising that saw the masses pour out on to the streets, calling on Mugabe to step down. Even the army, deemed partisan lapdogs of Mugabe, had had enough. Under Constantino Chiwenga – now vice-president – it swung to the side of the suffering masses.
Harare city centre was the epicentre of all the action. The rich, poor, black and white all came out in full force. And, of course the rest is history. Mugabe eventually tendered his resignation as parliament gathered to vote on his impeachment.
Many were happy to be liberated from Mugabe’s rule, hoping the new ruler installed by the army would return the nation to a democratic trajectory. Mnangagwa did not disappoint.
He reached out to all and declared elections would be held by the set date.
The country was a marvel; there were no widespread reports of attacks on opposition members that had characterised previous elections under Mugabe. This had tongues wagging, buttressing speculation Mnangagwa could not unseat Mugabe to hand over power to the opposition as support for the ruling Zanu-PF was reportedly on the wane – he thus had some tricks up his sleeve to retain power.
Some gave him the benefit of doubt, believing the new president would work to cleanse his image soiled by killings during his time as state security minister in the 1980s.
Mnangagwa’s inauguration as new leader was stalled by the MDC-Alliance which approached the Constitutional Court in an attempt to have the results overturned over a litany of alleged irregularities. Yesterday this failed and the court confirmed Mnangagwa’s victory and his inauguration is now set for tomorrow.
In a unanimous ruling of the nine judges of the country’s top court, Chief Justice Luke Malaba said MDC leader Nelson Chamisa had failed to prove allegations of fraud during the vote.
Chief Justice Luke Malaba ruled that:
“Emmerson Dambudzo Mnangagwa is duly declared winner of presidential elections held on the 30th of July 2018.”
Remember when the elections in which Mugabe locked horns with the late Morgan Tsvangirai when SADC declared the poll free and fair and the former sat on the results for weeks?
Former president Thabo Mbeki had to intervene, perhaps out of embarrassment, to help the warring parties up north cobble a unity government. Chamisa, who got 44.3% of the vote, was quoted as having written to President Cyril Ramaphosa about the matter.
Hours after Mnangagwa was declared winner after amassing 50.8% (which has since been revised downwards), Ramaphosa did not hesitate to send a congratulatory message. The opposition’s concerns did not matter to him, clearly.
And at the 38th SADC Summit in Windhoek, Namibia, recently, Mnangagwa was appointed deputy chair of the SADC troika on politics, defence and security.
SADC, AU and Comesa observers, as expected, gave the election a clean bill of health, while EU observers expressed their misgivings.
Because of its proximity, SA easily catches the cold when Zimbabwe sneezes and there was hope Ramaphosa – as SADC chair then – would apply his mind and help ensure that the people’s will prevailed.
But alas, he urged the aggrieved to take the court route instead of holding back on his congratulations until opposition concerns had been satisfactorily addressed.
South Africa has become an amalgam of various nationalities thanks to turmoil in the region and the bouts of xenophobic attacks the country has witnessed clearly show it has its fair share of problems as it appears to be failing to adequately cater for its own.
The scramble for jobs and housing is evidence of just two.
Entrenching democracy in countries within SADC is one sure way of ensuring foreigners stay away from SA shores. Many are here not on an adventure, but just to work and keep body and soul together.
It is during times like this that we expect the opposition and civil society in the country to gang up and urge the SA government to do the right thing. But there’s been deafening silence.
To the contrary, one South African Cabinet minister in Zimbabwe during the elections was reportedly quoted as saying she was there to offer support to Zanu-PF after a pronouncement in Pretoria that South Africa would work with whoever won. During his tenure as SADC chair, Ramaphosa should have done more to douse fires in the region by helping lay the ground for credible and fair elections.
On Monday this week, DRC nationals, yet another SADC member state, converged on Luthuli House to call on Ramaphosa to intervene in their situation.
President Joseph Kabila has been hanging on to power nearly two years after his term expired in December 2016 but there’s been no word from SADC.
Now he has of his own volition decided to step down but a frontrunner in the elections set for December 23, Moise Katumbi, is allegedly being unfairly treated. There were reports he had been barred from flying into the country to register as a candidate.
It is perhaps time SA revisited its foreign policy to enhance good neighbourliness and nurture democracy in the region.
The court route the MDC-Alliance took in Zimbabwe could have been avoided had ground been laid for free, fair and credible polls that no loser would contest through a mechanism to ensure SADC member states embrace democracy and the rule of law. Why not sell the South African model, starting with the selection of people who sit on the elections body, to avoid claims of massaging of figures after voting to prop up a preferred candidate?