Implications of the flawed 2013 elections

via The Standard – Implications of the flawed 2013 Elections

As a South African, I am troubled by President’s Jacob Zuma’s appeal to Zimbabweans to “accept the outcome of the elections”.

By Leon Hartwell

Why should our northern brothers and sisters accept elections that were not credible? Zuma’s statement is misleading as the real “outcome” of the elections is not the results.

Rather, it is the betrayal of an ideal for which our liberation heroes in the region fought. Zuma’s initial endorsement of the process disregards the long-term damage that this election will do to an important neighbour who has not yet successfully transitioned from independence to freedom.

Government exists not simply to rule, but to promote and provide a better life for its citizens. Consequently, the right to vote is essential as it acts as a cyclical safeguard to remove a government that fails to perform.

This year, Zimbabweans were once again deprived of truly exercising their right to vote under free and fair conditions. To be clear, the issue is not that Zanu PF emerged as the winner of the elections.

Rather, the electoral process leading up to Zanu PF’s victory has not been credible, which will have implications for Zimbabwe. What makes matters worse is that the past three years — both politically and economically — have been some of the best years Zimbabwe has had in almost a decade and a half. A lot of the progress that was made could easily be reversed.

The Global Political Agreement (GPA), which came into being after Zimbabwe’s violent elections in 2008, gave birth to the Government of National Unity (GNU). The GPA was intended to “create a genuine, viable, permanent, sustainable and nationally acceptable solution to the Zimbabwe situation”.

In essence, it aimed to create a situation of sustainable peace and promote reforms in a host of areas that would make the government of Zimbabwe more accountable and democratic.

The GPA also forced political parties into a series of engagement and negotiation processes which helped to build trust. After several failed attempts by political parties since 1999 to change the highest law of the land, the GNU wrote and enacted a new Constitution earlier this year.

Before the elections, actors across the political divide described the process leading up to the creation of the new Constitution as a form of “national healing”. Whether the same sentiments now prevail is doubtful.

Mugabe may change charter to suit himself

The new Constitution could also easily be amended given Zanu PF’s two-thirds majority in Parliament and the party’s history of tampering with the highest law of the land. Since 1987, Zanu PF amended the Lancaster House Constitution, each time making it less democratic and accountable.

In 1996, Zanu PF changed the first section of the Bill of Rights to a preamble, thereby diluting fundamental rights. Within hours of the elections, in his capacity as Minister of Justice and Zanu PF’s Deputy Secretary of Legal Affairs, Patrick Chinamasa reportedly told the media that “the new Constitution may need cleaning up”.

It is thus not unforeseeable that the Constitution will be amended.

Even if the Constitution remains unchanged for the time being, there is a risk that important aspects of it will not be implemented.

The new Constitution was negotiated with the intent that certain reforms have to be undertaken, thereby changing the relationship between the state and her citizens.

More than 90% of Zimbabweans, who voted in the Referendum in March 2013, endorsed the Constitution, which means the government has a duty to implement and respect it.

Key institutions — like the media, the security sector, and the judiciary — were misused in the run up to the elections.

Consequently, how likely is it that the reforms related to these institutions will be implemented? Why would the rule of law and the new Constitution be observed on a daily basis if so many laws were broken in an attempt to manipulate the outcome of the elections?

Zimbabweans independent but without freedom

President Robert Mugabe and Zanu PF lay claim to the title of Zimbabwe’s “liberators” yet they continue to purposely confuse independence with freedom.

Independence is simply self-rule; freedom is when a person’s liberty is promoted and protected by adherence to a host of rights. One of those fundamental rights is the right to vote under free and fair conditions.

Madiba [Nelson Mandela] linked his freedom to the idea of democracy. During the Rivonia Trial in 1964, Madiba stated, “I have fought against White domination, and I have fought against Black domination.

I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons will live together in harmony with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.”

Economy might recede in the wake of Zanu PF victory

Economic implications of the flawed election could also be severe, and in the worst case scenario, have a negative impact on the political situation. The importance of the GNU was that it helped to stimulate Zimbabwe’s economy.

After years of economic depression and inflation of 6,5 quindecillion novemdecillion (i.e. 65 followed by 107 zeros) percent by December 2008, the Zimbabwean economy grew by more than 9% per annum in 2010 to 2011 before it slowed down to 5% in 2012.

Zimbabwe experienced economic growth, not only due to dollarisation of the economy, but also because businesses had more confidence to invest in a country which they thought was moving in the right direction.

Both local and foreign businesses will be particularly wary to invest in the Zimbabwean economy because the political and economic environment for the time being remains unpredictable.

During the peak of the crisis years (1998 to 2008), Zimbabweans preferred to acquire foreign assets and keep their money in foreign bank accounts because controversial money printing caused the Zimbabwean dollar to collapse overnight; people feared expropriation and did not have confidence that the economy would bounce back.

A 2008 study by Léonce Ndikumana and James Boyce found that Zimbabwe’s external assets were 5,1 times higher than the country’s entire debt stocks, demonstrating a huge lack of trust in the Zimbabwean economy.

Today, Zimbabweans remain wary of Zanu PF’s policy as set out in its 2013 election manifesto to re-introduce the Zimbabwean dollar. Furthermore, according to Zanu PF’s election manifesto, there could be major problems for the 1,138 “foreign-owned companies” that have been targeted for indigenisation.

Zimbabwe’s external debt, which is said to be US$10,7 billion, is unsustainable and requires careful management as well as possible debt forgiveness.

It will be interesting to see how creditors will react to Zimbabwe’s flawed electoral process.

If Zimbabwe is unable to deal with the debt situation and fails to channel more money (including diamond revenue) into the country’s treasury, then attempts to get lines of credit from non-transparent sources could increase, leaving the country in a more vulnerable position.

Zuma’s statement urging Zimbabweans to simply accept the results of the elections pays little attention to the seriousness of the situation at hand. Many Zimbabweans feel cheated because the credibility of the process that produced Zanu PF’s victory was deeply flawed, thereby also betraying the essence of democracy.

The implication is the return and increase of mistrust and suspicion, and possibly also the reversal of many political and economic achievements by the GNU. For the time being, the country’s transition from independence to freedom remains unresolved.

*Leon Hartwell is an independent political analyst



  • comment-avatar
    Tatenda 9 years ago

    You are a South African citizen NOT Zimbabwean citizen as you rightly put it. Therefore your will will be expressed in South African elections not Zimbabwean Elections. As President Mugabe always says he is not an enemy of Zimbabwean people but an enemy in the eyes of the West and people who are being used by the west like you.

    You can not say that the will of the west has suddenly become the will of Zim people. By the same token you can’t also say the will of South African people is the will of Zim people NO.

    What came out in Zim elections is certainly the will of Zim people and it must be respected.

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      Shame, Tatenda you are really serious or you are joking. So what of its true that he is an enemy of the west and all that, does he have to hold ransom every Zimbabwean cause there are personal differences and Mugabe, the west can stand there and say we hate you and what does your uncle, he says the same thing and who suffers, its us. Please just accept the hard truth of the World Order otherwise we will always be under sanctions till 2222

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      Rudadiso 9 years ago

      Tatenda, Mugabe is first and foremost an enemy of the Zimbabwean people because it is us who have been impoverished by his policies not the West. It is us who for 33 years have endured repression and the humiliation of flooding other people’s countries to take up jobs loathed by other countries’s nationals.

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      nesbert 9 years ago

      He might be South African but what he said was true. The elections were not free and fair like it or not but that remains the fact. Its people like yourself who lick Mugabe’s ass who are making the majority suffer in the name of independence with no freedom at all. Smith was even better than Mugabe.In Zimbabwe there is no freedom just like in the colonial past the only difference is during the Smith era the standard of living was better.

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      There are no problems now. Mugabe “won”. Let him deliver. That is all that matters. We know that he never built not even one road we compare with RSA’s N1. Not even a road he could name after himself. The RG Mugabe roads you see in every city and town were built by Ian Smith. He simply removed the plaques and inserted his name. Equally, he did not build even one city we could take our descendents and say “here, see the vision of our leaders”


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    Morris 9 years ago

    The biggest that anyone can make is to toy with the imagination that Mugabe cares about any of these real issues. The man has no common sense he just has political power that he has learnt very well how to abuse.

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    trish 9 years ago

    yu ar the bad people you guys.the writer is not a zimbabwean but busy wishing us bad there freedom in yor country?leave us alone and push for reforms in yo own country.nthing is changing,mugabe is president and vice chair of sadc,think of other articles to write but that cant change anything,am one of those who voted him in power and know that there are 2million more who are lyk me.yo tsvangiboy disappointed you guys and if yu are that sincere start yoself to reform by writing objectively not subjectively.sorie mr writer its part of the game just wash yo face and see clearly.mugabe and zanupf 5 more years in the office whilst iwe uchitaura nhema to earn a living. Ndimi mbavha imi maface

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      So Trish did the author say that things were gud in his home country as you accussing him. Say what you just want to say and stop directing your frustration on innocent pipo…

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    we all know that hogwash…tell us something we don’t know Mr South Africa…maybe tell us why you are xenophobic

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    Hango Yapalala 9 years ago


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    cameleon nwabu 9 years ago

    All the problems bedeviling zimbabwe today are as a result of mismanagement by Mugabe. Mugabe deliberately created a poisonous atmosphere in the country so as to cover up for his catastrophic failings. The evidence of his mismanagement and failings is written all over the world. Millions of zimbabweans have fled their homeland in fear and are scattered all over the world and you still have idiots supporting an evil system like that. There will be no revival of any sort in the country until the evil system is removed.

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    “Whoever trusts in his riches will fall, but the righteous will thrive.” Proverbs 11:28

    “The house of the wicked will be destroyed, but the tent of the upright will flourish.” Proverbs 14:11

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    “Evil men will bow down in the presence of the good, and the wicked at the gates of the righteous.” Proverbs 14:19

    “The eyes of the Lord are everywhere, keeping watch on the wicked and the good.” Proverbs 15:3