ZIMBABWE’S political leaders have perfected the art of putting their foot in the mouth, undermining their own causes in the process. This is even worse when it is a national election, the very barometer of our democracy.
True to form, an apparently angry President Emmerson Mnangagwa told a rally of his party’s supporters that he does not care if the Wednesday elections are deemed not free and fair by Western countries.
“No one should come and tell us, ‘Are your elections free, fair and transparent?’ Nonsense!” Mnangagwa said at a rally in Shurugwi on Saturday.
“No one should assume any role to teach us democracy, we fought for it. We acquired it ourselves. It’s us who have the right to talk about democracy because we fought for it; we have the right to talk about independence because we fought for it, and about sovereignty because we fought for it,” Mnangagwa said.
Those are strange comments from a leader who has spent his first term championing a reengagement drive with foreign countries, especially the West, in a bid to return Zimbabwe to the ‘community of nations’.
Since his election in 2018, Mnangagwa strove to break Zimbabwe’s isolation and championed “mutually beneficial partnerships with people and nations of goodwill.”
That entails meeting certain minimum standards of governance and behaviours by government and our leaders. And elections that must be seen to meet requirements of a free, fair and transparent election are certainly part of the deal. As one of those requirements, Mnangagwa’s government invited observers from around the globe, including those from the United States and the European Union, but government officials seem to be making concerted efforts to undermine their credibility. Here is why the opinions of those foreign observers matter. In December 2022, Mnangagwa’s government established a Structured Dialogue Platform with all creditors and development partners. This was in order to institutionalise structured dialogue on economic and governance reforms as the pillars of the arrears clearance and debt resolution process the country is undertaking.
At a meeting of stakeholders in Harare in May, he said the country had put in place requisite mechanisms to guarantee peaceful, free, fair and credible elections.
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“My government stands committed to consolidating constitutionalism, rule of law, good governance and protecting constitutionally enshrined rights and freedoms,” Mnangagwa said.
Those observers are witnesses to whether government kept its pledge, and in a manner that shows that it should not be considered a pariah state.
As the president of the African Development Bank (AfDB) Akinwumi Adesina noted at the meeting, “the people of Zimbabwe and the international community will be watching very closely. ”
Mnangagwa and his Zanu PF party may yet sweep the board when the final election tallies are made, but his own utterances serve to undermine his claim to be democratic.