AU Should Press Zimbabwe for Credible, Free and Fair Elections  

By Dewa Mavhinga

Mere months after Zimbabwe’s military coup, the country’s new president, Emmerson Mnangagwa, announced he will attend the 30th African Union summit – this despite the AU chairman’s statement in November that the AU would “never accept the military coup” in Zimbabwe.

The summit, to be held this weekend in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, will be the first gathering of AU leaders since Mnangagwa took power from the ousted Robert Mugabe last November. Although in 2010, the 14th AU summit took a resolution on the prevention of “unconstitutional changes of government” it has taken no actions against Zimbabwe.

Still, the summit provides an opportunity for AU leaders to engage with Mnangagwa and push for an AU investigation into allegations of serious human rights abuses that followed the coup. The AU should act to strengthen the new government’s capacity to deliver credible, peaceful, free, and fair elections later this year.

Mnangagwa should demonstrate his commitment to democratic rule and good governance by signing and ratifying the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance, which promotes regular free and fair elections to institutionalize legitimate authority and democratic change of governments. He should then urgently implement provisions of the charter that include strengthening independent and impartial national electoral bodies, and ensuring fair and equitable access to state-controlled media by political parties and candidates.

Although Mnangagwa has promised free and fair elections, the AU should press him to walk the talk by implementing a roadmap to democratic elections, whose key pillars include the repeal or amendment of repressive laws like the Public Order and Security Act and the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act, which in the past have been used to arrest peaceful protesters and censor critical media. Zimbabwe should also insulate the military from partisan politics and interference in electoral processes, and prevent it from participating in violence and intimidation during the elections. It should also allow the early deployment of independent domestic and international election observers – including from the AU.

Now is the time for the AU to demonstrate leadership by concretely addressing Zimbabwe’s political and human rights challenges.


  • comment-avatar
    Fallenz 4 years ago

    First, the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance should do more than “promote” credible, free, and fair democratic elections… should be stated as a requirement with all members monitoring and observing the elections. Otherwise, the AU is nothing more than another social club for heads of state to rub shoulders and party at the expense of their taxpayers. Same with SADU.

    Zimbabwe has been an eyesore, especially on the Southern African states. Mugabe and ZANUPF has managed to reduce the influences of the entire region. So far, Mnangagwa has done nothing to remove that stigma. While the removal of Mugabe was way overdue, that it was accomplished via a military coup rather than being allowed by a duly democratic vote only shows that as long as ZANUPF holds the guns, the military, policia, judiciary, and press will remain politicized to keep ZANUPF in firm control.

    Mnangagwa is going about making all kinds of public promises regarding freedom and democracy in Zimbabwe, but be assured the only purpose is an attempt to gain investments to reverse the economic damage that Mugabe and ZANUPF has brought upon a once-thriving nation. Those promises are intended for the ears of the international business community, and not to be taken seriously by the starving masses of slaves back home. There is no evidence Mnangagwa and ZANUPF has any intention of allowing credible, free, and fair democratic elections in Zimbabwe.

    So, the eyesore continues… in spite of Mnangagwa’s attempt to paint lipstick on it.