Irony of Sadc’s Mugabe endorsement

ELECTIONS entail democracy and by definition democracy originated in ancient Greece, and the word itself demos is Greek meaning people and kratos refers to power.

Elias Mambo

Put together, the word means “people power”. Therefore, the definition refers to a system of government in which ordinary people have some input by representative democracy in which people elect their representatives to govern on their behalf.

Once democratic elections take place and the people’s will is not subverted, then the winner gets legitimacy. Legitimacy and power should be derived from only one source — the people.

Just last week, President Robert Mugabe attended the 33rd Sadc Ordinary Summit held in Lilongwe, Malawi, and on top of his agenda was his wish to mend relations with the regional bloc’s leadership to get legitimacy of an election which opposition parties and many non-governmental organisations have dismissed as rigged.

Ironically, Mugabe sought legitimacy from the group he threatened to pull out from days before the elections were held claiming Sadc was interfering in Zimbabwe’s internal affairs.

Mugabe launched his campaign to extend his 33 years in power by threatening to pull the country out of Sadc accusing the group of bias after he was grilled at the Maputo summit.

“We are in Sadc voluntarily,” Mugabe said, warning the 15-nation group against interfering in the general elections held on July 31.
“If Sadc decides to do stupid things, we can move out and withdraw from Sadc.”

Sadc had appealed for a delay in holding elections amid fears of violence reminiscent of the bloody and disputed 2008 June election in which Mugabe claimed victory, but regional leaders rejected the result as a sham.

MDC-T leader Morgan Tsvangirai has refused to accept the outcome of the July 31 polls citing lack of reform implementation and warned that the country risked a new descent into chaos, alleging the elections had been tainted by “monumental rigging” in which Mugabe’s party had blocked millions from voting.

However, the Sadc heads of state closed ranks at the just-ended summit in a move widely seen as an attempt to salvage Mugabe’s legacy at the expense of solving problems bedevilling individual Sadc countries.

Sadc leaders had been issuing communiqué after communiqué condemning the slow pace of political and electoral reforms in Zimbabwe since the formation of the coalition government in February 2009, but unanimously endorsed the elections outcome despite major reforms not being done, including the elections roadmap, which was dumped on the wayside.

Political commentator Blessing Vava said apart from politicking, Mugabe’s withdrawal threats served a more important function of “cowing Sadc leaders to accept the results of the elections he knew would be rigged”.

“He (Mugabe) was aware of the shenanigans (of rigging) so he was trying to cow the (Sadc) leaders into accepting the flawed elections he won.”

Last week, Sadc leaders bestowed on Mugabe the legitimacy he so much sought after controversially winning the polls.

The MDC-T condemned the Sadc summit as a blow to democracy and expressed surprise that the regional body decided to appoint Zimbabwe to the post of deputy chair of the regional bloc before the country’s electoral dispute is settled and final poll observation results are out. This means Mugabe will take over the regional bloc’s chairmanship at the next summit to be held in Zimbabwe in 2014.

Malawi President Joyce Banda was elected Sadc chair for the next 12 months.

As deputy chair, Zimbabwe will also become part of the Sadc summit troika which includes Malawi and Mozambique.

While Sadc may give Mugabe legitimacy, some analysts say the actual legitimacy Mugabe lacks is from the people of Zimbabwe.

University of Zimbabwe political science lecturer Shakespeare Hamauswa said: “They (Sadc) declared the elections free because there wasn’t any of that violence that characterised the 2008 polls, but the credibility and legitimacy will only be bestowed on Mugabe when Sadc issues its full report.”

But Vava said Sadc has already endorsed Mugabe’s victory despite the semantics surrounding the terms used.

He said even though the regional body is yet to use the term credible, events in Malawi where Mugabe was appointed deputy chair of Sadc, proved beyond doubt that Mugabe’s victory has received their legitimacy.