THE one-party state project is alive. Legislators now face suspension from the National Assembly and the Senate if they “disrespect” the President, Chief Justice or Speaker, after Parliament adopted new standing orders this week. According to the astonishing rules — which have been likened to a verbatim extract of the fascist playbook — MPs must stand when the President or Chief Justice enter or leave the House chamber.
Zimbabwe has never been a democracy. Contrary to the hollow claims of revisionists, palace historians and “patriotic intellectuals”, the 1980 election was far from credible. It was tainted with violence and mass intimidation.
Some commentators have sought to sanitise this by arguing that the violence and intimidation had no material impact on the outcome of that election. They miss the point.
Those who follow electoral politics would know that the term “free and fair” was first used in relation to Zimbabwe’s 1980 elections. That descriptor became a standard marker for election observer teams worldwide. It was only much later that the world woke up to the realities of a “free and fair” election which was in effect the foundation of a sinister one-party state project.
Who would have imagined that Zanu could join hands with apartheid South Africa, racist Britain and the amoral United States in decimating Joshua Nkomo’s Zapu and turning a blind eye to a genocide which cost 20 000 lives? Robert Mugabe claimed he was doing it to build political stability, national unity and socio-economic development. We now know, of course, that he did it for power retention, authoritarian rule, ethnic conquest and Western optics.
Zimbabwe’s 2002 presidential election — in which 107 opposition supporters were killed — was so bogus that the South African government stubbornly refused for 12 years to release a report compiled by its own observer team comprising High Court judges.
In 2008, more than 200 opposition MDC supporters were murdered by Zanu PF thugs in an election so bloody that even fellow dictatorships refused to endorse its shameful outcome. Zanu PF would go on to claim a pyrrhic victory in the 2013 general election, setting the stage for economic squalor.
The idea of representative democracy — where citizens get an opportunity to select those who govern — is reduced to a sorry charade in countries that lack a solid tradition of strong institutions, constitutionalism and plural politics.
Autocracy has brought us to ruin. The decay in Zimbabwe is unmistakeable. The dysfunctional brand of governance is characterised by gross economic mismanagement, inept public administration, cartel-captured kleptocracy and a stark lack of compassion in the corridors of power for the suffering of impoverished citizens.
Dictatorship got Zimbabwe into this hellhole; it is only democracy built on fairness and free participation that can rescue us.