No shortcut to free, fair polls

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IT has been a frenetic week for Zimbabwe and, although the sense of optimism is refreshingly welcome, there is still a great deal of caution in the air as the country puts its best foot forward in a concerted effort to lure investors and build a new image on the international stage.

Zimind Comment

President Emmerson Mnangagwa on Wednesday said Zimbabwe will hold harmonised elections in the next four or five months, promising they will be transparent, free and fair.

“We will ensure that Zimbabwe delivers free, credible, fair and indisputable elections to ensure Zimbabwe engages the world as a qualified democratic state,” Mnangagwa said

We sincerely hope that Mnangagwa sticks to his word and delivers a credible election, whose results will be embraced by all political players, Zimbabweans and the international community.

A credible election will give his administration the much-needed legitimacy, given that he took control of the levers of power on the back of a military intervention, a de facto coup in other words.

The fact that Zimbabweans and the world at large endorsed the military intervention should not be mistaken for naivety. It only served to confirm that former President Robert Mugabe was so unpopular that the world was willing to look aside, in the hope that a new dispensation would give Zimbabwe a new direction.

Indeed, the international community will be closely watching developments in Zimbabwe to see if the new administration will implement reforms to kick-start the economy, attract investment and ensure the observance of human rights, property rights and the rule of law. Crucially, too, the world will be watching to see if Zimbabwe delivers a credible election which will define relations with the wider international community.

As highlighted to the Zimbabwe Independent by Ambassador Philippe Van Damme, the head of the EU Delegation to Zimbabwe and Australia’s ambassador to Zimbabwe Suzanne McCourt, the bloc will consider scaling up financial assistance to Zimbabwe if Mnangagwa’s government delivers on its pledge to stage a credible poll as well as implement reforms that would set the country’s fragile economy on a firm growth trajectory.

“As explained, we are fully concentrated on launching and implementing the existing programmes which will create the conditions for possible scaling up of bilateral, multilateral and private sector support at a later stage, once a government issued from credible elections is in place and engages further on a reform agenda which can put Zimbabwe on a sustainable growth path to the benefit of all Zimbabweans,” Van Damme said.

Van Damme’s views are shared by many diplomats and even ordinary people in the region.

Only a credible election can deliver an outcome which will be readily accepted by the international community, making the job of addressing the countless problems bedevilling Zimbabwe significantly lighter. A credible election is in the national interest because it is the only way Zimbabwe can be salvaged from the scrapyard of pariah states.

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