BY TATENDA CHITAGU
ZIMBABWE’S new dispensation mirrors the previous regime as President Emmerson Mnangagwa – who won a disputed election last year – fails to walk the talk on democratic reforms, the latest annual Freedom in the World Report on political rights and civil liberties by international non-governmental organisation (NGO) Freedom House has indicated.
The report, titled Democracy in Retreat, assessed the state of freedom in 195 countries and 14 territories in 2018. The NGO’s methodology is informed by the Universal
Declaration of Human Rights, and is holistically applied to all countries and territories, discounting the economic, geographic, ethnic or religious factors for each nation.
“Zimbabwe’s political system returned in some ways to its pre-coup status quo, as the ruling Zanu PF party won deeply flawed general elections following the military’s ouster of longtime President Robert Mugabe in 2017. Despite Mnangagwa’s pledges to respect political institutions and govern in the interest of all Zimbabweans, his new administration has shown few signs that it is committed to fostering genuine political competition, and it has continued to enforce laws that limit expression,” the report
Despite that, Zimbabwe’s rankings improved from being “not free” to “partly free” due to the July 30 2018 elections that sanitised the November 2017 coup.
“Zimbabwe’s status improved from not free to partly free because the 2018 presidential election, though deeply flawed, granted a degree of legitimacy to the rule of President Emmerson Mnangagwa, who had taken power after the military forced his predecessor’s resignation in 2017,” it says.
However, another report from the Ibrahim Index of African Governance (IIAG) – a tool that measures and monitors governance performance in African countries – has listed Zimbabwe as one of Africa’s four most improved countries over the past 10 years.
According to the 2018 annual report, from 2008 to 2017, Zimbabwe posted significant improvements on: safety and the rule of law; increased growth domestic product growth; enjoyed more reliable supply of electricity and improved conditions for foreign investments.
According to Freedom in the World Report, last year, the percentage of countries rated not free was at 25,6%, while those that were partly free was at 30,3%. Those considered free were at 44,1%.
The report says “freedom is in the balance” worldwide because the gains in global freedom are being undone by recent dictatorships in countries, which have been put under the
“While past years saw gains in global freedom, in the last decade the share of not free countries rose to nearly 26%, and the share of free countries declined to 44%. Countries with net declines in aggregate score have outnumbered those with gains for the past 13 years.”
The decline in countries ranked free is also blamed on the election indicators in many countries, while in others presidents want to cling on to power by amending their constitutions even when their term limits have ended.
According to Freedom House, “leaders in 34 countries have tried to revise term limits — and have been successful 31 times — since the 13-year global decline began”. Topping the list is Africa, Latin America, and the former Soviet Union, according to the report.