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Editor’s memo: Democratic institutions first, elections later

THE Sadc Organ on Politics, Defence and Security Cooperation met in Windhoek, Namibia, on Sunday to deliberate on the Zimbabwe political crisis and recommended that the only way out of this calamity is free and fair elections.

The troika’s resolution was reached after facilitator, South Africa President Jacob Zuma, tabled a sagacious report on the state of political affairs in Zimbabwe under the shaky inclusive government.
Zuma made three recommendations that were, without alteration, adopted by the organ — the parties in the unity government should resolve outstanding issues of the global political agreement (GPA) within one month as part of a confidence-building measure; “should find an uninterrupted path towards free and fair elections and the removal of impediments as and when they arise” and that the troika “should persuade Sadc to help Zimbabwe to draw up guidelines for a free and fair election, where intimidation and violence would not play any part and where the result of such elections would be credible”.
No timeframe for the proposed elections was set, although over the past month there has been a crescendo call for the polls to be held next year from the two main protagonists of the country’s body politic — the MDC-T and Zanu PF.
While there is no doubt that the election trajectory would be the panacea to our political quagmire, the challenge is whether our leaders have the capacity to create the conducive environment for violent and intimidation-free elections given that they have close to two years failed to adhere to the GPA they cobbled out of their own volition.
Do our leaders have the will to abandon the tussle for the political turf for the sake of the nation when they are still in the trenches fighting for positions of political influence, such as that of provincial governors, the Attorney-General and the central bank governor, just to mention a few?   
It is naive to suggest that if Sadc draws up election guidelines, the polls would be free and fair. It is also naive, a suggestion from the MDC-T, to say that Sadc should come up with a commission to be stationed in Zimbabwe six month before and after polls to ensure security of citizens.
History is on my side. Zimbabwe’s first democratic elections in 1980 were held under international supervision and monitoring, but they were the most tense ever in this country. President Robert Mugabe escaped several assassination attempts in the countdown to the poll and his Zanu PF party, according to Lord Soames, won mainly because of violence.
Though Lord Soames had wished to see “the freest, fairest elections possible in this country”, he lamented that “intimidation is rife, violence is rife”.
Lord Soames was transitional governor of Rhodesia and was empowered to enforce law and order in the then divided country, oversee fair elections and help form a government to advance the state to independence.
The argument is that we do not need election guidelines and commitments from political parties our future elections to be free and fair. What we need as a matter of urgency are strong democratic institutions to be put in place before contemplating fresh elections.
These institutions should be etched in a new constitution.
Institutions of coercion and brutality must be disbanded. The police, the Central Intelligence Organisation and the army should be reformed for them to serve the interests of the country, not a particular political party.  
Another important move would be to open up the democratic space, allow various players room to facilitate, for example, voter education, which could be done within the confines of the law. It is also vital that voter registration and the voters’ roll be cleaned up to have a true reflection of who is eligible and where they would cast their ballot, unlike now where there are thousands of ghost voters.
Besides my suggested reforms, do Zimbabweans want an early election? The answer is an emphatic “no”.
The electorate is wary of early polls and would need time to heal from what they went through and witnessed in June 2008 when alleged security agents, Zanu PF militia and war veterans unleashed an orgy of violence throughout the country.
The MDC claims that at least 200 of its supporters were murdered and thousands injured and displaced during the jambanja to secure the presidency for Mugabe.



Constantine Chimakure

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