HomeAnalysisCredible elections the only route to legitimacy

Credible elections the only route to legitimacy

FOR the first time since his ouster by the military in November last year, former president Robert Mugabe last week spoke out about his ejection from power during a meeting with African Union Commission (AU) chairperson Moussa Faki Mahamat.

Candid Comment,Owen Gagare

Mugabe basically said he was removed from government through a military coup, adding President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government was illegal and that the AU should help to “restore normalcy and democracy in Zimbabwe”.

Politically and constitutionally speaking, Mugbe is correct. He was illegally removed from power and Zimbabwe desperately needs to get back onto a democratic path.

I will get back to this subject later.

Mugabe also complained that the country was effectively under military rule, hence the need to urgently restore democratic order. He added that his security and well-being were not guaranteed, as he was being denied his constitutional benefits, while his wife was being harassed.

Mugabe further said the upcoming general elections would not be free and fair as they would be run by the military. He complained that some people were killed during the military operation, while government was harassing and intimidating people.

It was quite ironic hearing Mugabe mourning about democracy, human rights abuses and military excesses.

This is a man, who for nearly four decades, presided over an authoritarian regime that intimidated, maimed and killed citizens. His complaints would hold gravitas if they were not entangled in hypocrisy and bitterness.

Given his appalling record, Mugabe has no moral high ground to complain about lack of democracy and human rights violations because his regime was guilty of the same abuses over the last 37 years. From Gukurahundi in the early 1980s, right up to the brutal crushing of social movements in 2016, his regime left a trail of disappearances and murders.

It does not wash for someone who presided over a government which killed more than 20 000 civilians during the Gukurahundi era to be crying about human rights transgressions.

But the fact that Mugabe is guilty in the court of public opinion for gross human rights abuses — some of which were perpetrated by the military itself — does not mean his genuine complaints about an unconstitutional change of government should be ignored.

After all, it is not about Mugabe, but about the constitution and future generations. A wrong precedent has been set and Zimbabweans should guard against coups becoming a means to take power in the future.

Had Mugabe been ousted through a popular uprising, it would have been fair game.

Fortunately for the military, their action was endorsed by the majority of Zimbabweans who were only too happy to see the back of a brutal dictator who had destroyed the country.

The onus is now on the Mnangagwa government to ensure free, fair and transparent elections. That will be the only way for the government to gain the much-needed credibility and legitimacy.

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