VICE-PRESIDENT Emmerson Mnangagwa’s statement this week that the government will cherry-pick monitors to observe 2018 elections is yet another bold illustration that not much has changed in the conduct of elections in this country.
The vice-president was reacting to media reports that the European Union wanted the United Nations and its partners to monitor the 2018 election in order to level the playing field and to avoid another disputed poll outcome.
Mnangagwa, who is also responsible for the Justice and Legal Affairs portfolio, often fancies himself as a reformist and forward-looking political merchant keen to align the country’s laws with the Constitution. His pronouncements this week however betrayed backward demagoguery which has become the hallmark of the Zanu PF ruling order.
This is not the first time that Zanu PF apparatchiks have been wheeled out to pronounce their dislike of international observers and monitors. This appears to be a position cast in stone and one that has been adopted to ensure that President Mugabe’s Zanu PF doesn’t lose an election. The Zanu PF government is not ashamed of advertising this dark side of electoral process manipulation.
Indeed, as Mnangagwa said this week, the government’s position has not changed and with it, chances of a free and fair election have remained as remote as they were in 2008 and in 2013 when rigging was perfected to an art form.
The spirit of amendments to the electoral law regime has been to effect the changes that would ensure that a wide cross-section of observers is accredited and that the ruling party will not be able to cherry-pick who will be accredited. But Mnangagwa says his government will decide who to invite, which questions the independence of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec).
Monitors and observers must not be selected on the basis of their bias in favour of one party or another. In 2002, 2005, 2008 and 2013 polls, a number of foreign observer missions were denied entry into Zimbabwe, while many domestic observers were also denied accreditation due to discriminatory procedures.
Only organisations and persons considered to be sympathetic to the ruling party were invited to conduct electoral observation. This is retrogressive and is an affront to African Union Guidelines as they state that: “International, regional and national observers have come to play an important role in enhancing the transparency and credibility of elections and democratic governance in Africa.”
That is to say elections are given legitimacy if they are endorsed by local, regional and international observers. Zimbabwe has suffered immensely from the question of Mugabe’s legitimacy since the disputed 2002 presidential poll.
Mnangagwa’s statement this week grossly undermines the integrity of next polls in 2018. Why does he want the legitimacy of Mugabe’s rule to be adjudicated by a jury of his friends only?