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Elections bridge to the future

ZIMBABWE’S next general elections on July 30 will be the most important in a generation and critical to restoring democracy and economic recovery in a country struggling to emerge from the rubble of former autocrat Robert Mugabe’s disastrous rule and its depredations.

Editor’s Memo,Dumisani Muleya

The elections are a watershed affair; coming as they do months after Mugabe’s toppling through a military coup. This means the elections have to resolve three important issues: constitutional usurpation, political transition and economic recovery. The freeness, fairness, transparency and credibility of the polls are key.

This imperative is well-understood by many in and out of Zimbabwe. That is why the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) and its officials must stop entertaining secret or fraudulent activities, or indeed manoeuvring by anyone around them. We all know Zanu PF has always won by fair means or foul. So it’s common cause that Zanu PF proxies, agents and sympathisers at Zec are busy doing some monkey business there trying to influence the outcome of elections for self-interest, their pockets and stomachs. Tender irregularities and corruption there tell a story about their integrity, or lack thereof. Not everyone is involved, of course.

However, Zec officials and staff must not underestimate their responsibility to the nation. They carry the people’s hopes and aspirations on their shoulders. Rigging elections is not just a corrupt and criminal activity, but a disservice to democracy and betrayal of the people and posterity.

Zimbabwe has been an international pariah largely because of failed leadership, bad policies and disputed election outcomes. Zec officials must not forget this. Zimbabweans, neighbours and regional fraternal states, the international community and investors are all waiting for the outcome of the elections to determine how they react and move forward.

As United Nations Development Programme administrator Achim Steiner, who is also vice-chair of the UN Development Group, said after a three-day visit to Zimbabwe in March “free, fair and credible elections” would be a critical milestone towards Zimbabwe’s economic recovery. This is a widely shared view.

However, it must be noted elections alone are not enough. There would be a lot that needs to be done after the polls for Zimbabwe to recovery and prosper.

For President Emmerson Mnangagwa to realise his dream of building a “country with a thriving and open economy, jobs for the youth, opportunities for investors, democracy and equal rights for all”, it will not be an easy task.

Elections will just be the beginning. Zimbabwe is a broken country and fixing it would take hard work, reform and reconstruction on a massive scale. This will take longer. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee which on Tuesday approved bipartisan legislation introduced by senators Jeff Flake and Chris Coons updating Zimbabwe Democracy and Economic Recovery Act (Zidera) to lay the framework for future Washington DC relations with Harare by outlining conditions for sanctions to be lifted, including ensuring “free, fair, and credible” elections, made this point very clear.

“The upcoming elections are a once-in-a-generation chance for the people of Zimbabwe to move forward after decades of autocratic rule,” Flake said. “The Zidera Amendment Act reinforces that if the Government of Zimbabwe is serious about bringing change to its people, starting with free and fair elections, it will find a willing partner in the US.”

Coons added: “This legislation reflects our sincere hope that Zimbabwe makes a transition to a peaceful, democratic, just, and prosperous nation. A free, fair, and credible election is a necessary, but insufficient step to increased levels and areas of cooperation with the United States. Zimbabwe’s leaders must also commit to a peaceful and constitutional transfer of power in order to reflect the will of the Zimbabwean people.”

This succinctly captures the message and expectations of various stakeholders, most importantly Zimbabweans, on this issue. This once-in-a-generation opportunity must not be squandered through electoral fraud and robbery.

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