AFTER the March 29 2008 relatively free and fair general election won by the then opposition MDC, Zanu PF resorted to violent political repression against pro-democracy activists especially after its leader, President Robert Mugabe, lost to MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai in the presidential poll.
When the history of the fall of Zanu PF is written, this will be highlighted as a critical moment in the political demise of the former liberation party.
Zanu PF enlisted the support of the army in the presidential run-off to terrorise unarmed civilians whose only crime was to choose a leader and party of their choice. The result of that June 27 2008 poll is what brought Zimbabwe to the sad state it is today, a country governed by an illegitimate Zanu PF elite that derives its powers from the coercive apparatuses of the state.
Mugabe’s sham electoral victory was dismissed by the AU and Sadc observer missions as well as the EU, the Confederation of South African Trade Unions and individual countries such as Botswana and Zambia who were very clear on the illegitimacy of the Harare regime.
Sadc has met four times in Zambia, South Africa, Namibia and Angola and discussed the Zimbabwean problem among other issues. At the meetings Mugabe and the other parties (the two MDC formations) have been reminded to respect the GPA and allow the implementation of necessary reforms that should lead to free, fair and credible elections.
The last meeting in Angola insisted on previous positions of the regional group, basically telling Mugabe, and indeed other leaders, that electoral unilateralism and dictatorship was no longer acceptable to Sadc.
Instead of taking heed, Zanu PF is slowly returning to its pre-GPA electoral shenanigans as it prepares for a violent poll. The spate of arrests of pro-democracy forces, assaults on political activist including two alleged murders of MDC activists in Mutoko and Zaka districts, as well as the continued abuse of the armed forces, are indicators of Zanu PF’s electoral strategy: the use of violence for political ends.
Zanu PF needs to appreciate that world leaders and leading democracies will not legitimise a violent electoral process and outcome. The message from across the Limpopo from President Jacob Zuma’s administration is that it will not be “business as usual” until Zimbabwe has a legitimate government. The continued call by Zuma, on behalf of Sadc, for a democratic roadmap to the holding of future elections sends a clear message to Zanu PF that a rigged poll is unacceptable.
Meanwhile, Zanu PF has already identified its enemies as civil society, the political opposition (MDC formations) and foreign companies through the politically-driven indigenisation programme meant to secure votes for the party. It is clear that Zanu PF’s “Look East” policy has not yielded much hence its continued attempts to re-engage the West so that it removes the targeted sanctions.
The unanimous decision by the UN Security Council in 2011 to impose sanctions on Zanu PF’s long time ally, the late dictator Muammar Gaddafi leaves Zanu PF in a serious political quandary. It was the Security Council’s decision to refer Gaddafi’s criminal conduct in the uprising in Libya to the International Criminal Court that unsettles Zanu PF most because that decision was taken with the consent of Russia and China, countries that usually block such moves.
Consistently Zanu PF has stood in defence of these repressive laws as necessary to maintain law and order in Zimbabwe, a euphemism for its illegitimate stay in power. These reforms are contained in the GPA that Sadc is consistently asking the parties to implement.
Instead of bowing to popular domestic, regional and international pressure by repealing these laws, the Zanu PF element in the unity government continues to selectively use these laws to further its narrow political interests by applying laws such as the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act to demean the substance and social fibre of the justice system in Zimbabwe.
Posa, a worthy successor to Rhodesia’s Law and Order (Maintenance) Act, is a favourite tool of Zanu PF and its use could increase if the political impasse within the unity government continues. It should not be forgotten that the central objective of promulgating these laws and the setting up of other institutions and infrastructure of repression was to silence the democratic forces in Zimbabwe, and for as long as Zanu PFs legitimacy is questioned, it will continue to use these draconian laws.
As a result, Zimbabwean politics reads like a nomad’s diary. With promises of a better future, every election has been seen as an opportunity to set the pace for development through creating a new vision that people must rally behind. But these hopes have been consistently dashed by an increasingly stubborn Zanu PF political elite.
Zanu PF’s loss in the 2008 general election has a number of ramifications in terms of governance and democracy. The first consequence for the party was its increased fear and paranoia, perceiving as it did a threat against from outsiders who it accused of supporting the opposition through sanctions. The party is using this warped thinking to abuse human rights under the guise of safeguarding the national interest, when it is clear that citizens are no longer interested in hollow and bankrupt politics and tired liberation discourse.
In this regard, civil society organisations and the democratic opposition have huge challenges. They have to continue to guard against complacency by not believing that the inclusive government made up of three political parties alone can resolve this crisis.
It is in the interests of a possible political transition built on Sadc consistency on creating political normalcy in Zimbabwe premised on fulfilling GPA reforms that civil society groups should remain resolute and continue to push for the full democratisation of the country premised on the rule of law.
Ruhanya is a PhD candidate in Media and Democracy at University of Westminster, London.