Democ­racy in ac­tion; that is now key

SADC must en­sure it flour­ishes through elec­tions in the re­gion

Pretoria News Weekend - - NEWS - Zim­babwe Pres­i­dent Em­mer­son Mnan­gagwa.

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?


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