AS preparations for the forthcoming elections hot up, Zimbabweans will increasingly become anxious and speculative about their future which looks uncertain.
Report by David Matumbike
The topical debate on what the future holds has been going on for some time. It was key before the signing of the Global Political Agreement (GPA), a culmination of protracted negotiations and contestations between the parties to the agreement as they fought for control of the future by seeking to secure an electoral framework that would tip the political scales in their favour.
Not surprisingly, Zanu PF prefers to maintain the status quo in the electoral framework, while the MDC formations want fundamental reforms. This has led to difficulties being experienced throughout the life of the inclusive government so far. Fortunately, the GPA was guaranteed by the African Union (AU) on behalf of the entire international community, with Sadc being assigned by the AU to ensure effective implementation of the agreement and a peaceful transition to democracy in Zimbabwe via free and fair elections.
Sadc’s performance on this assignment can only be measured by peaceful, free and fair elections and smooth handover of power to the next government, not by the number of communiqués it has released.
Sadc has therefore anchored its efforts to deliver on its mandate by insisting on a roadmap which creates conditions for free and fair elections. There are two broad reforms that will have a telling, although not across-the-board, effect on the creation of the necessary conditions for free and fair elections, plus a smooth transition. These are constitutional and institutional reforms.
Two key elements of these reforms have a particularly strong bearing on the electoral environment created by the changes.
It is clear that very little reform has taken place at an institutional level and it is also highly unlikely that whatever reforms will take place between now and the next elections will meet the minimum requirements for a conducive electoral environment. My assertion is based on practical considerations.
However, pressure continues to mount for expeditious delivery of reforms before elections. There has been debate in some circles on how long the GPA can actually subsist as people are wondering what would happen if the necessary institutional reforms were not in place in time for expected elections next year. Evidently, the constitutional reform process has demonstrated the protracted nature of contestation between the political parties fighting to govern this country.
Both the process and content of the constitution are highly contested terrains as the political parties battle for political space and advantage on the one hand, while the discordant voices of civil society organisations fight for various interests on the other.
Meanwhile, the citizens are left as spectators in a process which should be theirs. Present indications are that Zimbabwe may end up with a party-oriented rather than a people-oriented constitution as a result of the flawed Copac process before elections.
It is not surprising the outcome of this constitutional process has been the production of a number of drafts and proposed “amendments” which in the end will make the final draft bear close resemblance to the original Copac one or the Kariba draft.
While the MDC parties approved the final Copac draft, Zanu PF is still grandstanding through rhetoric about the “people’s views” to justify its continued demands which will make the new constitution worse than the current Lancaster House one. Whatever Zanu PF’s agenda, the only thing that comes out of a Copac process is a party-oriented rather than a people-oriented constitution.
It is baffling how, to all intents and purposes, Zanu PF is so arrogantly pursuing a constitution to suit its political and electoral agenda, not to serve the people and national interests. Zanu PF is being myopic and blind because it may actually end up the victim of its own bad constitutional proposals.
Zanu PF for some time now has been working on the constitutional provisions that relate to the time beyond the next polls, and seeing itself in that time not as an opposition party, but as a ruling party.
Meanwhile, MDC-T has accepted the Copac draft on the basis of the improvements on the electoral provisions. It is paying less attention to the other provisions including those of interest to Zanu PF. From the MDCs’ viewpoint, any amendments Zanu PF makes giving more powers to the executive would also benefit MDC in the event it is elected into office.
Zanu PF’s amendments do not seem to focus on the proposed electoral provisions. It would seem Zanu PF’s emphasis is not on the elections, but on what happens after.
One would have thought Zanu PF would try to make amendments to the Copac draft to ensure electoral provisions are tilted in its favour, but that does not seem to be the case. It would appear the party is not focusing on the forthcoming elections because in its opinion it has already won the next polls which it wanted held as far back as last year. What is Zanu PF’s basis for such confidence? It’s obviously something which we do not know.
Quite apart from the Freedom House findings, which actually show that almost half of the voters are undecided, Zanu PF has always been seeing itself in power beyond the forthcoming elections. But the question is why does Zanu PF see itself in power after the forthcoming elections? Has it already won the elections?
While Zanu PF might look like it is reading from Comical Ali’s handbook on propaganda by a sinking regime, it would be naïve to assume the party is just being funny. So has Zanu PF already rigged the elections? Did it actually rig polls in the past? Does Zanu PF know something we don’t? Or worse still, perhaps something that the Freedom House doesn’t know?
While this might sound cynical, we should nevertheless cast our votes despite our disappointment with the outcome of the constitutional process and our greatest fear of an unexpected outcome in the forthcoming elections coming true. Such an outcome would perpetuate the enduring myth of rigged past and future elections. As responsible citizens, it is our duty to vote whether or not the election is at risk of being rigged.
Suffice to say, what I remember from playing a board game is that a bait is not always what it seems. Why would Zanu PF focus more on executive powers rather than electoral issues whereas it would seem to me that the most important section of the supreme law at this juncture is the electoral framework?
As they say, it is illogical for a hyena to leave meat behind!
In the highly unlikely event of this happening, you can rest assured there is no threat to its prey. Food for thought.
We might be celebrating the electoral provisions in the constitution, but it may be more prudent to hold our breath until after the elections, and better still only after ensuring that provisions of our final constitution are better than just Zanu PF proposals so that the people become the victors regardless of who will be in power after elections.
- Matumbike contributes opinions to newspapers. He writes in his personal capacity.