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Are Free and Fair Elections Possible in Zimbabwe in 202… – Daily Maverick

For 22 years the only solution to the political crisis in Zimbabwe has been the resort to elections, and the forlorn hope that an internationally accepted election result would guarantee the legitimacy for the country to re-engage with the international community. 

Unfortunately, it is also the solution advocated by the two major political parties in the country: both parties claim that the legitimacy that will flow from an internationally accepted election will prove to be the panacea that will end the crisis and resolve the deep-seated problems — political, economic, and social — that afflict Zimbabwe.

We reject this misguided optimism as we have since 2016.

The hope about elections has been fostered by the surprising result in the Zambian election and the re-emergence of a popular opposition, the Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC). Whilst it is heartening to see this, it is evident that this merely deepens the political polarisation in the country, and a country that is the most politically polarised in Africa. This polarisation is reflected in the total absence of political trust by the citizens in political parties, the government, and the state. 

Citizens Coalitions for Change (CCC) leader Nelson Chamisa
Citizens Coalitions for Change (CCC) leader Nelson Chamisa speaks during his campaign rally in the township of Highfields, Harare, Zimbabwe, 20 February 2022. (Photo: EPA-EFE / Aaron Ufumeli)

The hope is also given new energy by the results of the by-elections and the confirmation that, despite all the manoeuvring to destroy the Chamisa faction of the MDC, the new party, the Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) restores the polarisation of two big parties in Zimbabwean politics. Zanu-PF will have to face the fact that no GNU or political settlement can take place without the CCC, and that buying time to resolve its internal chaos has not changed the political reality in Zimbabwe. 

The low poll, which is usually the case, also demonstrates the total absence of political trust in the state, the government, and political parties.

Citizens in Zimbabwe trust only NGOs and religious leaders, and too often the vote for the opposition is a mixture of support as well as a rejection of Zanu-PF, with the opposition seen as the lesser of two evils. The Afrobarometer survey in 2021 found that nearly half (49.8%) of Zimbabweans would not vote, and didn’t know, or would not say who they would vote for. Mostly this is argued to be due to the “fear factor”, but it is also due to the total lack of political trust. However, it is the case that many who are reticent hide their affiliation with the opposition.

This seems strongly plausible with the complete failure of governments since 2000 to address the deepening poverty that afflicts most Zimbabweans, to stem the vast corruption that is documented nearly every week, the slow but steady collapse of the state and its ability to deliver public goods and services to the population, and the inevitable violence that accompanies elections.

People gather around a fire on the street during a protest against polling results in Harare, Zimbabwe, 1 August 2018 (issued 02 August 2018). The day saw protests turn violent when police fired rubber bullets and teargas, before the army was called in and began firing live rounds. (Photo: EPA-EFE / Yeshiel Panchia)

We reject this forlorn hope about the curative power of elections because the impediment to such a solution remains the securocrat state, the deep structure that controls civilian affairs in Zimbabwe. 

Thus, before any thought about the outcome of elections, there must be frank discussion about what actual conditions the election 2023 must achieve if there is to be any sense that the election is an acceptable basis for examining reforms. The Constitution states explicitly what is expected in an election in Section 155 (1): 

“peaceful, free, and fair; conducted by secret ballot; based on universal adult suffrage and equality of votes; and free from violence and other electoral malpractices.”

This is the basic litmus test for any election in Zimbabwe, and for these conditions to be met, the election must be able to pass a straightforward audit, covering the transparency of several crucial processes, and these conditions must be observably present before voting takes place. Such an audit is already in progress with the first discussion already raising red flags.

Pre-auditing the 2023 elections

A very useful framework for conducting a pre-election audit was provided by Phillan Zamchiya at a recent policy dialogue on elections. Part of a series being mounted by the Sapes Trust and the Research and Advocacy Unit (RAU), this framework combines the technical matters referred to above with the political economy context. 

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Simply, the framework proposes five pillars essential to a bona fide election:

  • Information: This refers to the ability of citizens to obtain all kinds of information, and not merely the openness of the media to reflecting the multiple perspectives of the electoral constants. It also refers to the ability of citizens to engage with politicians and attend meetings and rallies without fear and constraint.
  • Inclusion: This refers to the notion that elections are about free and equal participation in the electoral process. There are difficulties in registering as voters, with indications that the numbers registering are low. This is partly due to the perception that elections are never free and fair, and the difficulty in obtaining identity documents, the prerequisite for registering. The conditions for Inclusion are absent.
  • Insulation: This refers to both the ability to freely participate in elections and to freely vote, which have been problems in most elections in the past two decades. It refers also to the ability to be free from intimidation and violence, and for all forms of treating to be absent. Clearly, with the imprisonment of opposition leaders, the banning of political meetings, and the escalating political violence, the conditions for Insulation remain seriously flawed.
  • Integrity refers to the impartiality and accountability of the election management body, ZEC. There are many signs that ZEC is not impartial as is required by the Constitution, including the significant numbers of military personnel working in the institution. However, it is not merely ZEC that must be impartial in the electoral process: all government agencies must be impartial, and this is doubtful in the aftermath of the coup. The Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) and the Zimbabwe National Army (ZNA) must be firmly under civilian control and politically impartial as required by the Constitution. The available evidence is that Integrity is wholly absent in Zimbabwe and will not be present until the coup is cured.
  • Irreversibility refers to several things. Firstly, that there is no reversing or tampering with results: the count and the outcome must reflect the will of the people. Secondly, it refers to the acceptance of the results by the loser. Irreversibility has been a problem in every election since 2000, with the courts a major obstacle in resolving election disputes. We should not forget 2008 when the MDC-T won the parliamentary and presidential elections, but Zanu-PF would not concede nor would Africa force them to do so: the consequence was a bloody run-off for which Africa should accept some of the blame. The available evidence is that Irreversibility is by no means assured for the coming elections.

Elections in the current state of the nation

There must be some reasonable conjecture, however, about whether Zimbabwe will even reach an election next year without a national crisis taking place. The deepening crisis within Zanu-PF ahead of the elective congress later this year suggests that the leadership conflict is far from settled, and may force the securocrat state to consider other options

The economy may force other options as well: the rampant and rising hyperinflation seem beyond the control of the government, and, despite the rhetoric, the living conditions of virtually all citizens are worsening weekly, if not daily. Mozambique and Sri Lanka are instructive here. Furthermore, the country is yet to feel the full effects of the international crisis. 

None of these factors are propitious for the holding of elections. 

Zanu-PF President Emmerson Mnangagwa - Zimbabwe
Zanu-PF President Emmerson Mnangagwa arrives at the National Stadium, Harare, Zimbabwe, 28 July 2018. (Photo: EPA-EFE / Yeshiel Panchia)


We stated at the outset that it was extremely doubtful that any election in Zimbabwe could resolve the crisis. For this reason, we have posed what can be seen as the minimum conditions for an election to meet acceptable standards, whether those of SADC or the AU. 

Given the history of elections in Zimbabwe in the past two decades, it is obvious that there should be considerable misgivings that this election could be any different, and especially in the light of the statements by Zanu-PF that they will not accept loss and feel entitled to rule forever. This cannot be seen as mere rhetoric. 

Furthermore, the reforms needed to the state have not happened despite all the promises of a “second republic” and a “new dispensation”. Multiple reforms are needed before there is any prospect that any election can create a legitimate government.

However, we are locked into an election, with both major parties claiming that they will be victorious, and hence nothing will happen until the election is over: all regional and international factors have no choice except to sit and wait for the outcome. If this election can meet the standards we have outlined above, there may be a faint hope that 2023 will see a government in place that all can accept as legitimate, but our bet is that even these minimum standards cannot and will not be achieved. Then, the only solution will be political settlement, national dialogue, and a National Transitional Authority.DM/MC

Ibbo Mandaza and Tony Reeler are Co-Conveners of the Platform for Concerned Citizens (PCC)

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Chief declares Zhombe no-go area for Zimbabwe opposition – Bulawayo24 News

ZHOMBE traditional leader, Chief Samuel Samambwa, has declared the district a no-go area for opposition political parties, but complained that successive Zanu-PF governments have failed to electrify his homestead.

Speaking during the commissioning of Sherwood Clinic recently, the traditional leader said the opposition was not going to get any votes from his area, declaring it a preserve of the ruling Zanu-PF party.

He insisted that his subjects would vote for President Emmerson Mnangagwa in next year’s general elections.

Chief Samambwa pledged his loyalty, and that of his subjects to Zanu-PF, in the presence of Midlands Provincial Affairs Minister, Larry Mavhima.

“Minister, I want you to take this message to President and tell him that he has our support here in Zhombe. He must be rest assured that the opposition is not going to get anything in Zhombe; that is a Zanu-PF stronghold,” he said.

President Mnangagwa owns a thriving farming enterprise in Sherwood Block, just a few kilometres from Zhombe.

The farming enterprise falls under Samambwa’s jurisdiction.

The Chief however, took opportunity of the event to lash out at government for failing to instal electricity in his village.

“I want to tell the minister that I don’t have electricity at my place. I need electricity, the minister must, therefore, look into that issue,” he said.

Local traditional leaders stand accused of helping coerce their subjects to vote for Zanu-PF in contravention of constitutional provisions clearly stating that they must not leaders must not “be members of any political party or in any way participate in partisan politics … act in a partisan manner (or) further the interests of any political party or cause”.

Zimbabwe Council of Chiefs president Fortune Charumbira has been defiant over the issue, declaring that “Chiefs will never leave Zanu-PF’.

“On behalf of all chiefs in this country, I want to tell you that we are together. It’s true we are together. We are behind you. I want to repeat this because there are people who ask us why we come here,” Charumbira told Zanu-PF’s annual conference in 2021.

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South Africa’s beleaguered Zuma open to return to politics – New

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By Associated Press

JOHANNESBURG: Beleaguered former South African President Jacob Zuma says he is ready to make a surprise return to politics by standing for a top position at the ruling African National Congress’ elective conference in December — if he is nominated by party members.

The 80-year-old Zuma was president from 2009 to 2018 before he was forced to resign amid wide-ranging allegations of corruption in government and state-owned institutions.

He was sentenced to 15 months in prison last year for defying a court order to testify at a judicial commission investigating corruption during his tenure, and has since been released on medical parole. Zuma is also facing trial for corruption in a separate case involving a major arms deal the South African government was negotiating more than 20 years ago, around the time Zuma was a deputy president of South Africa.

In a statement released late Monday, Zuma said he had been approached by some ANC members to consider contesting for the position of party chairman at the end of the year.

“I have indicated that I will be guided by the branches of the ANC and that I will not refuse such a call (to contest for the chairman position) should they deem it necessary for me to serve the organization again at that level or any other,” Zuma said.

The party meeting at the end of the year will be crucial to the future of current President Cyril Ramaphosa, who is facing stiff opposition to be re-elected ANC leader and stay on as the country’s president.

Zuma has been critical of his successor and the pair are seen to be part of opposing factions within a divided ANC.

Zuma also endorsed his ex-wife, current government minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, to contest for the position of president of the ANC against Ramaphosa. Ramaphosa’s position has been weakened by his struggle to get a grip on corruption, a scandal of his own involving a large amount of cash stolen from his ranch, and an ongoing electricity crisis that has recently left Africa’s most developed economy in power blackouts for up to 10 hours a day.

Zuma is still popular among some factions of the ANC and at grassroots levels in some regions, but it’s unclear how he would deal with an ANC rule that anyone facing criminal charges may not stand for leadership positions. The rule also demands that those occupying leadership positions should “step aside” from their positions if they are charged.

The corruption charges Zuma faces are linked to a 1999 arms deal, and the case covers a time when he was a political figure on the rise and then deputy president. He is accused of receiving bribes from French arms manufacturer Thales to provide political protection for the multi-billion dollar deal. Zuma has denied the charges and has moved to have the prosecutor taken off the case, claiming he is biased.

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UK: Opposition MP apologises for calling finance minister ‘superficially’ black – New – The Zimbabwe News You Trust is Zimbabwe’s leading online newspaper and published by New Zimbabwe Media Ltd.

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