HomePolitics‘Polls without reforms a return to 2008 era’

‘Polls without reforms a return to 2008 era’

ZIMBABWE is expected to go for make-or-break elections in a few months to end the life of the Government of National Unity (GNU) –– a rocky marriage of convenience between Zanu PF and the two MDC formations now in its fourth year.

Report by Elias Mambo

However, two and a half years after the three political parties in the coalition government agreed to implement critical reforms and draw up an implementation matrix that would allow for credible, free and fair elections, most of the reforms are still to see the light of day. If anything, Zanu PF has dug in deeper, making it clear it has no intention to implement any more reforms.

Remarks by Defence minister Emmerson Mnangagwa this week epitomised Zanu PF’s intransigence, unequivocally stating security sector reforms remain “a no-go area as long as the revolutionary Zanu PF is alive”.

“As long as we are here in leadership, we will make sure the Defence Forces of the Republic of Zimbabwe will continue to defend the national interests and to safeguard our values and ideals which our people died for,” Mnangagwa said.

“They want to hear that you are compliant, that you accept security sector reforms. What does that mean? It means to have non-governmental organisations and trade unions operating in the defence forces. They would want you to say you are non-political, you must serve any government.”

The security sector infamously participated in a brutal campaign ahead of the June 2008 presidential poll run-off which saved President Robert Mugabe after he lost to Morgan Tsvangirai (MDC-T) in the first round of the presidential election. The sham election led to the formation of the GNU.

Among the issues agreed on by the unity government parties were reforms on media, electoral reforms, security sector reforms, a land audit, constitutional review, amendments to or repealing of the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act and Public Order and Security Act.

On August 5 2010, Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara wrote a letter to the Sadc-appointed facilitator, South African President Jacob Zuma updating him on reform process, including implementation timeframes for 24 agreed issues.

According to the implementation matrix, the three principals agreed to implement 23 issues either immediately or within a month from August 4 2010.

They also agreed to implement a sanctions removal strategy on a continuous basis.

All media reforms, which include the regularisation of the Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe board, the appointment of a new Zimbabwe Broadcasting Holdings board and constituting the Zimbabwe Mass Media Trust, were supposed to be completed within a month.
The principals agreed to end hate speech in the media and put a stop to attacks on ministers implementing government programmes. This, they said, was supposed to be done on a continuous basis.

According to the implementation matrix, security sector reform would also be implemented on a continuous basis. They agreed to ensure that the commissioner-general of the police, state security organs and the Attorney-General should comply with Article 11 and 13 of the Global Political Agreement (GPA).

Article 11 of the GPA –– precursor to the GNU –– deals with the rule of law, respect for the constitution and other laws while Article 13 states that state organs and institutions do not belong to any political party and should be impartial in the discharge of their duties.

It was also agreed that Jomic and a cabinet re-engagement committee would deal with the external radio stations issue by appealing to foreign governments hosting them to shut them down.

A Land Audit Commission should have been set up within a month of the agreement while a land tenure system guaranteeing security of tenure and collateral value of land should have been in place within two months.

However, the negotiators were deadlocked on the staffing of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec), the role of the army, police and intelligence in electoral politics and elections, deployment of security forces countrywide ahead of polls, political violence and how the intelligence service should be controlled and regulated.

They further disagreed on further amendments to the draconian Public Order and Security Act – widely used to ban rallies and meetings of Zanu PF rivals and critics – and on the role of foreign observers.
The three parties that form the coalition government signed a roadmap to elections, which identified and defined “milestones and signposts that must be executed and implemented before the holding of free and fair elections” and it is only when these agreed reforms have been implemented that the will of the people could be reflected in the next polls.

Zec, the Registrar General’s (RG) office, voters’ roll, the Zimbabwe Media Commission and role of the public media and the security sector are all crucial to the holding of credible, free and fair elections. As a result the reconstitution of Zec is one of the fundamental reforms which have to be tackled since it plays a critical role in elections.

Zec and the RG’s office manage and run the electoral process but these two bodies, manned by controversial appointees linked to Zanu PF, has been accused of manipulating the vote to preserve the status quo.

For instance during the 2008 presidential poll, Zec held onto the results for more than a month, a move which fuelled concerns of electoral fraud. Results were eventually released showing that President Robert Mugabe had lost to Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai in the first round, but critics say the delay was used to minimise Mugabe’s loss to ensure a run-off.

Critics say while elections dates might be an interesting detail in the process, the real issue is the electoral context, environment and administration which are currently geared to deliver a pre-determined outcome to ensure regime retention and continuity.

A local think tank, the Zimbabwe Democracy Institute, recently released a document on elections calling for a fresh recruitment of the entire Zec secretariat.

“The problematic, partisan, and militarised Zec secretariat that presided over the 2008 sham election and remains intact today cannot manage and preside over credible, free and fair elections,” reads part of the report.

As things stand, the police, military and intelligence are openly campaigning for Zanu PF and Mugabe.

Civil society activist Dewa Mavhinga, a senior researcher for Zimbabwe and southern Africa at Human Rights Watch, says Zimbabwe simply has to implement all agreed reforms.

“Elections in the absence of credible reforms mean an extension of the status quo, an indefinite postponement of the democratisation agenda and further entrenchment of Zimbabwe’s isolation from the international community,” Mavhinga said.

Given the experiences of the 2008 presidential poll run-off, fear and anxiety could grip Zimbabweans as elections approach with precious little in the way of reforms.

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