by Patricia Mpofu Friday 04 January 2008
HARARE – President Thabo Mbeki has been asked to directly intervene to break
the impasse between Zimbabwe’s ruling ZANU PF party and the opposition over
a new constitution and a date for elections this year, ZimOnline has learnt.
Mbeki was last March appointed by Southern African Development Community
leaders to lead efforts to end Zimbabwe’s political and economic crisis by
facilitating dialogue between ZANU PF (the party of President Robert Mugabe)
and the main opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) party.
A key objective of the talks is to ensure Zimbabwe’s joint presidential and
parliamentary elections this year are free and fair. Talks have however hit
deadlock over demands by the MDC that a new constitution drafted by
negotiators be enacted before elections and that the polls be pushed back to
Sources privy to the negotiations said that talks were “hanging in the
balance” with everything now dependent on whether Mbeki is able to find a
way to narrow the differences between ZANU PF and the MDC over the new
constitution and the date for polls.
“The major sticking points are the issue of the constitution and the date
for elections but there are other issues also threatening the dialogue
process,” said a one source, closely involved in the negotiations.
“For example, the MDC wants SADC to monitor and supervise implementation of
any agreement between it and ZANU PF before and after the elections . . .
but ZANU PF is totally against foreign supervision and monitoring,” added
Mbeki’s spokesman Mukoni Ratshintanga was not immediately available for
comment on the matter with several direct phone calls to his office going
Nelson Chamisa, spokesman for the larger faction of the MDC that is led by
Morgan Tsvangirai, confirmed talks were stalled and that the matter had been
referred to Mbeki. But he refused to disclose further details because
parties to the dialogue are sworn to total secrecy.
“There is a deadlock. The issue has been referred to SADC via the
facilitator President Mbeki,” said Chamisa.
Gabriel Chaibva, the spokesman of the Arthur Mutambara-led MDC faction
referred ZimOnline to secretary general Welshman Ncube, who was not
immediately available for comment.
ZANU PF leader in the talks Patrick Chinamasa was also not available to take
questions on the matter.
Zimbabwe is in the grip of a debilitating political and economic crisis that
is marked by hyperinflation, a rapidly contracting GDP, the fastest for a
country not at war according to the World Bank and shortages of foreign
currency, food and fuel.
Analysts say truly democratic elections next year are vital to any attempt
to resuscitate Zimbabwe’s comatose economy. - ZimOnline
by Simplicious Chirinda Friday 04 January 2008
HARARE - A Harare lawyer on Thursday accused a senior ruling ZANU PF
official of seeking to seize a white-owned farm in Chegutu that is at the
centre of a bitter dispute between the farmer and the government.
The lawyer, David Drury of Gollop and Blank law firm, claimed Nathan
Shamuyarira, the ZANU PF secretary for information and publicity, was
waiting in the wings to take over William Michael Campbell’s farm in
Drury represented Campbell during a Southern African Development Community
(SADC) Tribunal hearing in Windhoek, Namibia last month where he was
challenging the seizure of his property by the government.
The SADC Tribunal last month ordered that President Robert Mugabe’s
government to allow Campbell to stay at his farm pending the final
determination of an appeal against the seizure of his property.
In an interview with ZimOnline yesterday, Drury said Shamuyarira had over
the past few weeks visited the property and had placed his “representatives”
at the property.
“Shamuyarira is the one who wants to take over occupation of the farm. He
has been visiting the farm periodically and on ad-hoc occasions. His
representatives have been camped at the farm,” said Drury.
Shamuyarira, regarded as among the few voices of reason within ZANU PF,
could not be reached for comment on the matter yesterday.
Mashonaland West province has since late last year been rocked by fresh farm
invasions by senior government officials despite pleas by Vice-President
Joseph Msika and Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) Governor Gideon Gono to halt
the farm disturbances.
Several government ministers and senior army officials have over the past
seven years seized former white-owned farms around the country in a move
Mugabe said was necessary to correct historical imbalances in land
The often violent farm disturbances which began in 2000 however triggered
severe food shortages as newly resettled black farmers failed to maintain
production on the former white farms.
An eight-year economic recession described as unprecedented for a country
not at war worsened the food shortages resulting in the once self-sufficient
southern African country depending on food handouts from international
relief agencies. - ZimOnline
by Nqobizitha Khumalo Friday 04 January 2008
BULAWAYO – The British embassy in Harare has rejected as “nonsense” claims
by President Robert Mugabe’s government that it was offering a safe haven to
high-profile Zimbabwean criminals.
The statement comes after ruling ZANU PF legislator David Butau, who was
wanted by the police for allegedly violating the country’s tough foreign
exchange regulations, fled to the United Kingdom last week.
“Allegations of a deliberate policy of harbouring Zimbabwean criminals are
nonsense. David Butau was issued with a five-year visitor's visa in 2004.
“He is not on the EU (European Union) visa ban list and is free to visit the
UK for six months at a time while his visa is still valid,” said the
British Embassy in response to questions sent on the matter.
At least 130 ZANU PF officials are barred from visiting the UK under
targeted sanctions imposed on President Robert Mugabe’s senior lieutenants
about five years ago.
Butau fled to the UK last week after the Zimbabwean authorities indicated
that they were keen to interview him for allegedly violating the country’s
foreign currency regulations.
President Robert Mugabe’s spokesperson and government spokesman George
Charamba accused the UK of applying double standards after it offered a safe
haven to Butau.
Speaking from the UK this week, Butau, who chairs the parliamentary
committee on budget and finance, said he escaped to the UK after he he had
been set up by Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) governor Gideon Gono.
He joins a long list of Zimbabwean businessmen who have fled the country
since 2003 to escape prosecution for allegedly violating the country’s
exchange regulations. - ZimOnline
By Blessing Zulu
03 January 2008
Talks between Zimbabwe's ruling party and opposition failed to resume
Wednesday as expected with no date set for their resumption, raising concern
that South African President Thabo Mbeki has become too preoccupied with his
own political survival to concentrate on breaking the deadlock which has
developed in the negotiations.
Sources in Pretoria said Mr. Mbeki was preparing for another showdown with
Jacob Zuma, who has replaced him as president of the ruling African National
Mr. Mbeki could face trouble at a meeting Monday of the ANC national
executive, at which supporters of Zuma are expected to accuse him of
engineering the latest corruption charges brought against Zuma by a South
Senior Zimbabwean opposition officials have voiced concern at the delays,
saying the South African political tussle is hindering resolution of the
Senior Researcher Chris Maroleng of the Institute for Security Studies in
South Africa told reporter Blessing Zulu of VOA’s Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that
Mr. Mbeki has his hands full and may not be able to successfully conclude
the Zimbabwe talks.
By Carole Gombakomba
03 January 2008
Zimbabwean health experts are predicting a gloomy 2008 as medical services
delivery collapses under the weight of the country's steepening economic
Chairman Douglas Gwatidzo of the Zimbabwe Association of Doctors for Human
rights said 2007 was a tough year for Zimbabwe, and the health sector was no
Junior doctors at state hospitals have started to return to work from their
latest strike, but Hospital Doctors Association President Amon Siveregi
described conditions in public hospitals as deplorable. Siveregi said the
doctors are giving the state the benefit of the doubt for the moment while
labor negotiations proceed.
Health minister David Parirenyatwa said Harare is committed to solving the
But many key stakeholders told reporter Carole Gombakomba of VOA's Studio 7
for Zimbabwe that the government must take urgent action to halt the decline
in health care or the problems seen in public medical services in 2007 will
By Patience Rusere
03 January 2008
Cash shortages remained general in Zimbabwe on Thursday despite assertions
by the central bank that it had the situation under control, and the crisis
worsened in many locations as Zimbabweans holding hard currency turned to
the black market.
Sources in Harare reported long lines at all banks, and said Stanbic Bank
ran out of cash late in the day. Financial institutions were said to be
limiting withdrawals to Z$20 million, well short of the Z$50 million limit
set by the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe.
Similar conditions were reported in Bulawayo was similar - banks allowed
customers to withdraw only $30 million. Local sources said the crisis seems
to be arising from the inability of banks to meet high demand for currency
as commodities prices soared.
Zimbabwean consumers and businesses turned to the parallel or black market
which the central bank has denounced to fulfill currency requirements,
despite a premium for local currency which has driven the exchange rate to
Z$1.9 million to the U.S. dollar for bank notes from a rate of more than Z$4
million before the crisis flared.
Harare correspondent Thomas Chiripasi told reporter Patience Rusere that
sources in the financial sector alleged that some bank staff were diverting
cash to the parallel market through illicit transactions.
The central bank's credibility was under assault following reversals of
policy including its extension of the date of expiration of Z$200,000 bearer
cheques that were due to expire Monday before Reserve Bank Governor Gideon
Gono extended their life.
The central bank also lifted a requirement it had earlier imposed obliging
all electronic transfers to be documented by invoices, virtually paralyzing
Economist Eric Bloch, an advisor to the Reserve Bank, said the monetary
authority has been obliged to make a number of policy changes to respond to
the evolving situation, but voiced confidence the institution will resolve
the immediate crisis.
By Jonga Kandemiiri
03 January 2008
A strike by many of Zimbabwe's magistrates and prosecutors entered its ninth
week as 2008 opened with no resolution in sight, leaving the lower court
system in turmoil.
Sources said judicial officers in major cities reported for work this week
but handled no cases. Senior magistrates and police officers were said to be
handling some cases while others were being continued to later dates, the
Magistrates and prosecutors went on strike on October 31 demanding higher
pay, but the government said it cannot afford to revise their wages. A
Zimbabwean magistrate typically earns a monthly salary of Z$20 million, or
less than US$10.
Legal Affairs Secretary Innocent Gonese of the Movement for Democratic
Change faction of Morgan Tsvangirai told reporter Jonga Kandemiiri of VOA's
Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that the strike is hurting many people including
witnesses who must travel long distances only to be told that the cases have
The magistrate has also left many accused languishing in jail unable to
By Lebo Nkatazo
Last updated: 01/04/2008 11:28:02
THE two feuding factions of Zimbabwe’s opposition Movement for Democratic
Change (MDC) are battling to reach a compromise deal to present a united
front in joint presidential and parliamentary elections due in March.
MDC founding President Morgan Tsvangirai is advocating a total reunification
of the two groups after an acrimonious split in October 2005. However,
officials in the other MDC faction led by robotics scientist Arthur
Mutambara are promoting the idea of a loose coalition, with the possibility
of a total reunification after the polls.
The MDC’s domestic and international backers have called for a unification
of pro-democracy activists to challenge President Robert Mugabe’s 28-year
rule amid a deepening economic crisis.
But there remains a dispute about the shape of the unified opposition force,
with some on the opposition side advocating the dismantling political
boundaries and finding an “untainted” and unifying leader to lead the
Some political observers say Tsvangirai, after months of fighting his former
colleagues and overseeing the MDC’s defeat in two parliamentary elections
and one presidential election, is “not a unifying factor”.
But Tsvangirai still enjoys widespread support across the country and
remains determined to lead the united front against Mugabe in a rematch of
the 2002 elections which international observers said were rigged.
He said: “There has already been progress; our council has already taken a
resolution on a united front. We are taking measures to implement that
resolution in ensuring that we engage with our erstwhile colleagues in
constructing an agenda that is going to unify all democratic forces. I must
say that’s more of implementation than anything else.
“One of the principles is to ensure that we have a one candidate policy on
all contested seats. What we are talking about first and foremost is that
you have to understand that we have to restore the unity of the MDC, that’s
what the people are demanding. They want a unified MDC.
"Secondly, they are also demanding that all the other loose parties like
Zanu Ndonga, Federal Democratic Union in Matabeleland…they will be brought
in within that broad democratic front.
“And besides, we want to make sure that the struggle for democracy in this
country is not just an MDC struggle, it is a broad democratic struggle
including members of civil society who have paid a very dear price in
achieving that. When we talk about this we are very clear what are the first
steps (and) what are the second steps in building that united front.”
But his former deputy Gibson Sibanda, who is now the vice president of the
rival faction led by Mutambara, told the Voice of America’s Studio 7 that
the reconfiguration of the party to the pre-2005 period was an impossibility
given the time remaining before elections.
He said: “We spoke about this, and reached an agreement that we will have a
loose coalition to allow one candidate per constituency from the opposition.
The total reunification of the party is the next step. So the first step is
to organise for the forthcoming elections, there is no time for
reunification. If Tsvangirai wants unity, we say we agree, but it’s not
realistic at this time.”
Both MDC factions want a new constitution in place before elections in
March, but President Robert Mugabe insists an agreement on a new
constitution agreed between his Zanu PF party and the MDC can only be
implemented after the elections.
Among other demands, the opposition wants a new electoral commission that
would conduct the elections.
Mugabe, 83, who has been in power since the nation gained independence in
1980, is seeking a sixth term of office.
By Carole Gombakomba
03 January 2008
Floods continue to wreak havoc in parts of Zimbabwe with an unofficial death
toll of 30 since the inundations began in late December and an estimated
10,000 people left homeless, reports by state media and humanitarian relief
Unconfirmed reports indicated at least 30 people have drowned in the floods
across the country. Afflicted areas include the low-lying areas of Chipinge
and Middle Sabi in Manicaland Province, parts of Masvingo province, and the
area around Victoria Falls, in Matabeleland North. The state-run Herald
paper reported 22 deaths.
VOA was unable to confirm the death toll with the Civil Protection Unit.
Meanwhile, Chongwe District in Zambia, to the north, has issued an alert
that major rivers in the country are swelling, posing a flood risk to
The semi-official Herald newspaper quoted the meteorological services
department as saying tropical cyclone Elnus, characterized by strong winds,
was seen heading from the Mozambican Channel onto the Southern African
mainland. However, principal meteorologist Hector Chikoore said Zimbabwe was
Regional Disaster Coordinator Farid Abdul Kabir of the International
Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies told reporter Carole
Gombakomba of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that conditions in stricken areas
are increasingly desperate.
The Vigil was fortunate to get enough funding to take a big group to Lisbon
to protest against Mugabe at the AU / EU Summit. The group (Ephraim Tapa,
Kudzai Rangarirai, Wiz Bishop, Adella Chiminya, Dumi Tutani, Willie Chitima,
Guy Benton, Farayi Madzamba. Fungayi Mabhunu, Anna Meryt, Charles Gomedza,
Judith Matsvairo, Priscilla Mugwagwa, Mike Bennett, Elliot Pfebve, Sanderson
Makombe, Dennis Benton, Rose Benton, Themba Moyo, Victoria Chitsiga,
Stendrick Zvorwadza, Dorcas Nkomo, Tichaona Gozvo, Racheal Lupafya) were a
great team. We were accompanied by Lance Guma of SW Radio Africa. It was
only at the last minute that we were joined Dumi whose passport arrived the
day before we travelled, and Stendrick, who for visa reasons had to travel
to Lisbon via Brussels. We asked the group for their personal feedback on
the trip and received the following.
Ephraim Tapa: I remember very well when we discussed the Summit at a forum
early last year if not late in 2006, then the focus being to campaign
against Mugabe's invitation. Everyone felt very strongly against Mugabe's
visit and I personally felt that no amount of remedial action would off-set
the damage that would be occasioned by his visit. After the trip I have a
different perspective: it was better that he came for he lost it big time
and all tribute goes to the gallant activists who made the trip and those
who supported us. That campaign made all the difference as it stole all the
limelight and made Mugabe a sad figure of ridicule. Having witnessed such
success with a very high sense of personal satisfaction, I am left wondering
when next Mugabe might be venturing out again.
Willie Chitima: about 30 political activists including me took part in the
trip to Lisbon to demonstrate at the Summit. On Friday 7th December we went
to Vasco da Gama Square, 50 metres from where the Summit was held, where we
were allowed to sing and dance toy-toyi. We staged a drama showing Mugabe
blocking his ears while we shouted about his abuse of human rights. On 8th
December we went back to demonstrate at the same place and sang for almost
five hours. We saw our demonstrations in the Portuguese newspapers. I
personally feel great for expressing my feelings against Mugabe. I hope
there will be change soon.
Farayi Madzamba: The trip was fantastic and the impact it had was huge and
will have a positive outcome. I think the world heard the powerful message
that we gave and it made the Summit leaders open their eyes. This trip meant
a lot to me and it brought me close to the other members of the Vigil.
Dumi Tutani: We stole the show in Lisbon. Other protesters shouted slogans
but our dancing, drumming and singing gained much more attention. We were
the best and most long-lasting of the protests with our toy-toyi getting
lots of media attention. Our weekly Vigils are like a weekly rehearsal. I
personally sang for 3 hours non-stop.
Fungayi Mabhunu: there was a very good feeling in the group with very good
team work. it was an Interesting experience to play Mugabe, wearing the
mask. I could feel the hatred for Mugabe even though he was being played by
an actor. How has he managed to hang on so long when everyone hates him? He
is probably scared to resign because of the crimes he has committed.
Judith Mutsvairo: I was glad to bring Zimbabwe's plight to the world's
attention in Lisbon. I am still getting phone calls from people asking about
the trip. People are encouraged to join the struggle because of our trip.
Charles Gomedza: The group was full of energy and character standing firm in
protest even in the face of the CIOs and the hired Mugabe supporters. We
even became more zealous and vibrant when we learnt that the pro-Mugabe
group was actually a group of disillusioned foreign nationals, not even
Rose Benton: I was stopped in the street by Portuguese people who had seen
me on TV and wanted to congratulate the Vigil on bringing the world's
attention to what was happening in Zimbabwe. Organising the trip was worth
all the hard work. It was interesting to meet a former Zimbabwean, Peter
Horsman, from Zimbabwe who now lives on the Algarve and came up to stage his
own demonstration. It turns out he was a close neighbour from my childhood.
Addella Chiminya: What a time we had. The good spirit among the group was
amazing. I salute you Rose. You are a soldier.
Racheal Lupafya: My family back home saw everything on television. Everyone
I have spoken to talks very positively about the trip and say we did very
well. I am glad we managed to shake the old tyrant.
Dennis Benton: I was amazed at how much money the Mugabe people had spent.
There was a business exhibition nearby at which the Zimbabweans handed out
lavish brochures which pretended that all was well in Zimbabwe, ignoring all
the problems. I was interviewed at length by Czech television because I had
mentioned a letter about Zimbabwe to the London Times by prominent writers
led by former President Vaclav Havel.
Priscilla Mugwagwa: I was so happy at the success of the trip. Because we
were there demonstrating and telling the world what was happening in
Zimbabwe Mugabe was not able to say what he usually says. Thanks to the
human rights groups (ADDHU and Crisis Action) in Lisbon who organised the
protests which made our presence more effective.
Guy Benton: I only went because someone dropped out at the last minute -
otherwise a place would be wasted. But I hope I made myself useful and I
certainly enjoyed being with the group. I was impressed by the untiring
dancing, singing and drumming.
The Vigil, outside the Zimbabwe Embassy, 429 Strand, London, takes place
every Saturday from 14.00 to 18.00 to protest against gross violations of
human rights by the current regime in Zimbabwe. The Vigil which started in
October 2002 will continue until internationally-monitored, free and fair
elections are held in Zimbabwe. http://www.zimvigil.co.uk
By Rosa Prince, Telegraph Political Correspondent
Last Updated: 1:10am GMT 04/01/2008
Zimbabwe will be allowed by the British Government to take part in the 2012
Olympic Games in London if the troubled African nation cancel their 2009
cricket tour of England.
High-level diplomatic talks are under way to thrash out a deal amid concerns
that an outright ban on Zimbabwe taking part in the series could lead to a
wider African boycott of the London Games.
The England and Wales Cricket Board are understood to be working closely
with the Government to find a way to call off the tour, with one source
saying there was "no way" the Zimbabwean team would be allowed to set foot
on British soil.
But negotiations are sensitive because of growing fears Zimbabwe president
Robert Mugabe may pull his team out of future sporting events, including
cricket's World Twenty20 Championship, also scheduled for England in 2009,
and the London Olympics. Other African nations, particularly South Africa,
could then follow suit.
Unlike the Olympics, in which virtually every nation in the world will be
represented, a cricket tour would focus the full spotlight on Zimbabwe.
Whitehall sources say ministers are determined not to "abandon" the ECB as
the cricketing authorities felt Tony Blair did ahead of the 2004 one-day
tour to Zimbabwe, when little concrete help was given by the Government. The
trip went ahead amid chaotic scenes, with Mugabe enjoying the opportunity to
crow over the former colonial power.
The need to tread carefully means that Downing Street and the Foreign Office
are publicly insisting the final decision will remain with the ECB, who they
say have been "made aware" of the Government's view that the tour would be
But a source told The Daily Telegraph: "We're all very much on the same page
now - negotiations have been going on for some months. The Government is
giving the cricketing authorities very close support. Basically, there is no
way Mugabe is going to be allowed to let his team play here.
"The major problem now is ensuring that does not give him any kind of
perceived justification to accuse the old colonial power of slighting
Zimbabwe - and stirring up a storm which results in the whole of Africa
An agreement negotiated through the International Cricket Council would also
mean a massively reduced penalty for the ECB, from as much as £2 million to
While Zimbabwe observers fear that Mugabe will be reluctant to lose an
opportunity to make trouble, the ECB hope he will be persuaded to consent to
the plan. The regime may be keen to receive an immediate cash injection of
around £250,000 in foreign currency.
Sources suggest talks have taken place via the South African High Commission
to gain Zimbabwe's consent to the cancellation of the tour - a claim denied
by the Foreign Office. But the ECB and ICC have held talks with the
Zimbabweans in Johannesburg about the matter.
Friday January 4, 2008
Zimbabwe Cricket's controversial president, Peter Chingoka, is believed to
be in South Africa for the second Test against West Indies, where it is
expected he will hold informal talks over his country's future in the game
with Ray Mali, the International Cricket Council president.
Despite support from South Africa and the Asian nations, patience is
beginning to run out on Zimbabwe Cricket. It still has full-member voting
status at the ICC and received multimillion-pound World Cup payments
although it no longer features in the Test arena. Amid corruption
allegations, an audit is being conducted into Zimbabwe Cricket's financial
affairs by KPMG, which is due for presentation to the ICC board next month.
In the meantime all eyes will be on Mali's handling of Chingoka, who is
widely considered to have close links with his country's president, Robert
Mugabe. Mali, a former teacher, was previously president of Cricket South
Africa and has long been a significant figure in South African life, to the
extent that his testimony featured in the Truth and Reconciliation
Commission that was set up after the fall of apartheid.
General Christoffel Pierre van der Westhuizen, SA National Defence Force
commander of the Eastern Province from 1983 to 1986, told the commission in
April 1999 that the apartheid government had a plan to create a sympathetic
regime in the Xhosa homelands and that Mali had been considered as a
Daily Nation, Kenya
Story by ALPHAYO OTIENO
Publication Date: 1/4/2008 ELECTIONS, IF MERELY FOR their own sake, are a
waste of time in Africa, and nowhere else has this been demonstrated more
than in Kenya.
The recent polls have been roundly condemned by election-monitoring
bodies. Observers from the European Union said that the whole process was
“not credible” and the report they issued on the exercise was the most
damning it had ever issued anywhere in the world.
As Kenyans and the international community grapple with the crisis,
the question they should now be asking themselves with some urgency is:
The elections represented a big step backwards in the Government’s
ostensible efforts to match economic reforms with democratic openness and
respect for basic rights.
Kenya’s Western partners should not be idle bystanders. Instead they
should be willing to condition non-humanitarian aid and security
co-operation on clear evidence of reform, including the impartial
investigation and prosecution of politicians suspected of subsidising recent
election and post-election violence, and committed serious electoral
From the polls, we now know that democracy is not a panacea. Some
elements of the deficit of democracy should have been put to the test long
Democracy is just a governing system. It might be one of the best, but
it does not automatically solve all problems. In fact it probably does the
opposite; most major problems must be solved before democracy can work.
From the polls, we have learnt that there is yet to be fair, free and
transparent elections in Africa; it is just a waste of money and other
African leaders hate to be called “former head of state”, and once
they taste power, they think the country belongs to them. Then arrogance,
disdain and authoritarianism take their course as the means to hanging on to
But what is the root cause of the problem? Prof Donald Kagan in
Pericles of Athens and The Birth of Democracy, says that a successful
democracy is based on more than elections.
He maintains that an examination of the few successful democracies in
history suggests that they need to meet three conditions if they are to
The first is to have a good set of institutions.
The second is to have a body of citizens who possess a good
understanding of the principles of democracy, and who have developed a
character consistent with the democratic way of life.
The third is to have a high quality of leadership, at least in
critical moments. Until the above has been fulfilled, the struggle for
democracy will continue.
TWENTIETH CENTURY HISTORY IS littered with the remains of elections
that brought forth neither democracy nor the rule of law.
The entire Soviet empire was enamoured of show elections in which
every citizen was given the privilege of voting for the winner — and only
Fascist and corporatist regimes would routinely invoke the plebiscite
to crown the claimed rule of the people, a tool used by Hitler to
consolidate power in the 1930s.
Post-colonial regimes in countries such as the Central African
Republic, or more recently, Zimbabwe, would hold elections only to see the
victors proclaim themselves rulers for life.
Before any election is held, there must be ground rules that determine
what elections are for, and formal institutional structures that will be
filled by the elections.
But what justifies those rules? The answer can only be given
retrospectively, based on the success of the democratic experiment itself.
All democracies enter this world with this so-called democratic
deficit — a system preordained by no particular democratic process.
British philosopher John Stuart Mill may have had a case like Kenya in
mind when he wrote that political liberalism was impossible in a country
with ethnic or national divisions.
He wrote: “Among a people without fellow-feeling, especially if they
read and speak different languages, the united public opinion, necessary to
the working of representative government, cannot exist.”
Over the past years, the need to secure democratic order in countries
fractured by racial, ethnic or religious cleavages like Kenya has robbed us
of the easy assumption that democracy can take hold in raven societies.
Democracy, then, is ultimately not about the ability to elect rulers;
it is about the ability to send them packing. The political tragedy of
post-colonial Africa is not the absence of elections; it is the inability to
vote rulers out of office.
Whether an election is a harbinger of democracy is best addressed in
hindsight once the security of the minorities is assessed and once the
first elected rulers face retrospective accountability before the
Mr Otieno is a journalist based in the US. The regular Friday
columnist, Lucy Oriang’, will be back next week.