Old order hangs on

President Robert Mugabe was in belligerent mood at the United Nations General Assembly last week.

Zimbabwe Independent Editorial

Lashing out at the United States and Britain, he appeared to think they should be feeling a sense of shame over the sanctions they imposed against Zimbabwe some 10 years ago and which remain in force.

Mugabe’s fury was stoked by his detractors’ failure to recognise his recent electoral victory. The West argues the outcome was the product of manipulation of the voters’ roll. They also claim the political climate was not conducive to a free and credible election.

US ambassador Bruce Wharton recently referred to the original measures taken against Zimbabwe in 2001 which were designed to uphold the rule of law, maintain human rights and preserve democratic institutions. This is a view shared by Canada and Australia, among other countries, and by Zimbabwe’s civil society.

There have been a number of interactions during the inclusive government era referred to as reengagement talks led by then-Justice minister Patrick Chinamasa in London and Geneva and by Foreign Affairs minister Simbarashe Mumbengegwi who met with European Union officials in Brussels.

But these have not been fruitful exchanges largely because Zimbabwean officials are in denial about human rights violations. In 2007 MDC-T leader Morgan Tsvangirai and associates were badly beaten at the Machipisa police station where they went to enquire about the fate of colleagues.

This year we have witnessed the release of 20 MDC-T members who had been arrested in connection with the death of a policeman.

They were incarcerated for almost two years without being charged.

One died in custody. Human rights in Zimbabwe are clearly only partially observed despite new constitutional provisions. The state media remains a captive of the ruling party’s political ambitions and is abused to propagate a particular partisan position.

These are the circumstances in which democratic states are told by Mugabe to recognise Zimbabwe’s deeply flawed electoral outcome. There have been initiatives since the election to forge improved relations with state media. These will only succeed if there is improved behaviour. Zanu PF cannot continue with its old ways and expect civic cooperation and international recognition.

We must not lose sight of the fact that the country went to the polls in July without completing GPA reforms. There will be a price to pay for that. The new parliament is already advertising its credentials by demanding diplomatic passports and pensions.

There is some hope in all this intransigence. Despite the celebrations by the ruling party, they secured their majority by coercion. And in the two great cities of the country the populace doggedly resisted Zanu PF’s encroachment. There is nothing inevitable about Zanu PF’s victory as 2000, 2002, 2005 and 2008 tells us.

Zanu PF represents the old order. As Lovemore Madhuku pointed out this week, politics in Zimbabwe has become a generational process. That is something the ancien regime can’t resist for too long!

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