Implications of the flawed 2013 elections

As a South African, I am troubled by President’s Jacob Zuma’s appeal to Zimbabweans to “accept the outcome of the elections”.

By Leon Hartwell

Why should our northern brothers and sisters accept elections that were not credible? Zuma’s statement is misleading as the real “outcome” of the elections is not the results.

Rather, it is the betrayal of an ideal for which our liberation heroes in the region fought. Zuma’s initial endorsement of the process disregards the long-term damage that this election will do to an important neighbour who has not yet successfully transitioned from independence to freedom.

Government exists not simply to rule, but to promote and provide a better life for its citizens. Consequently, the right to vote is essential as it acts as a cyclical safeguard to remove a government that fails to perform.

This year, Zimbabweans were once again deprived of truly exercising their right to vote under free and fair conditions. To be clear, the issue is not that Zanu PF emerged as the winner of the elections.

Rather, the electoral process leading up to Zanu PF’s victory has not been credible, which will have implications for Zimbabwe. What makes matters worse is that the past three years — both politically and economically — have been some of the best years Zimbabwe has had in almost a decade and a half. A lot of the progress that was made could easily be reversed.

The Global Political Agreement (GPA), which came into being after Zimbabwe’s violent elections in 2008, gave birth to the Government of National Unity (GNU). The GPA was intended to “create a genuine, viable, permanent, sustainable and nationally acceptable solution to the Zimbabwe situation”.

In essence, it aimed to create a situation of sustainable peace and promote reforms in a host of areas that would make the government of Zimbabwe more accountable and democratic.

The GPA also forced political parties into a series of engagement and negotiation processes which helped to build trust. After several failed attempts by political parties since 1999 to change the highest law of the land, the GNU wrote and enacted a new Constitution earlier this year.

Before the elections, actors across the political divide described the process leading up to the creation of the new Constitution as a form of “national healing”. Whether the same sentiments now prevail is doubtful.

Mugabe may change charter to suit himself

The new Constitution could also easily be amended given Zanu PF’s two-thirds majority in Parliament and the party’s history of tampering with the highest law of the land. Since 1987, Zanu PF amended the Lancaster House Constitution, each time making it less democratic and accountable.

In 1996, Zanu PF changed the first section of the Bill of Rights to a preamble, thereby diluting fundamental rights. Within hours of the elections, in his capacity as Minister of Justice and Zanu PF’s Deputy Secretary of Legal Affairs, Patrick Chinamasa reportedly told the media that “the new Constitution may need cleaning up”.

It is thus not unforeseeable that the Constitution will be amended.
Even if the Constitution remains unchanged for the time being, there is a risk that important aspects of it will not be implemented.

The new Constitution was negotiated with the intent that certain reforms have to be undertaken, thereby changing the relationship between the state and her citizens.

More than 90% of Zimbabweans, who voted in the Referendum in March 2013, endorsed the Constitution, which means the government has a duty to implement and respect it.

Key institutions — like the media, the security sector, and the judiciary — were misused in the run up to the elections.

Consequently, how likely is it that the reforms related to these institutions will be implemented? Why would the rule of law and the new Constitution be observed on a daily basis if so many laws were broken in an attempt to manipulate the outcome of the elections?

Zimbabweans independent but without freedom

President Robert Mugabe and Zanu PF lay claim to the title of Zimbabwe’s “liberators” yet they continue to purposely confuse independence with freedom.

Independence is simply self-rule; freedom is when a person’s liberty is promoted and protected by adherence to a host of rights. One of those fundamental rights is the right to vote under free and fair conditions.

Madiba [Nelson Mandela] linked his freedom to the idea of democracy. During the Rivonia Trial in 1964, Madiba stated, “I have fought against White domination, and I have fought against Black domination.

I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons will live together in harmony with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.”

Economy might recede in the wake of Zanu PF victory

Economic implications of the flawed election could also be severe, and in the worst case scenario, have a negative impact on the political situation. The importance of the GNU was that it helped to stimulate Zimbabwe’s economy.

After years of economic depression and inflation of 6,5 quindecillion novemdecillion (i.e. 65 followed by 107 zeros) percent by December 2008, the Zimbabwean economy grew by more than 9% per annum in 2010 to 2011 before it slowed down to 5% in 2012.

Zimbabwe experienced economic growth, not only due to dollarisation of the economy, but also because businesses had more confidence to invest in a country which they thought was moving in the right direction.

Both local and foreign businesses will be particularly wary to invest in the Zimbabwean economy because the political and economic environment for the time being remains unpredictable.

During the peak of the crisis years (1998 to 2008), Zimbabweans preferred to acquire foreign assets and keep their money in foreign bank accounts because controversial money printing caused the Zimbabwean dollar to collapse overnight; people feared expropriation and did not have confidence that the economy would bounce back.

A 2008 study by Léonce Ndikumana and James Boyce found that Zimbabwe’s external assets were 5,1 times higher than the country’s entire debt stocks, demonstrating a huge lack of trust in the Zimbabwean economy.

Today, Zimbabweans remain wary of Zanu PF’s policy as set out in its 2013 election manifesto to re-introduce the Zimbabwean dollar. Furthermore, according to Zanu PF’s election manifesto, there could be major problems for the 1,138 “foreign-owned companies” that have been targeted for indigenisation.

Zimbabwe’s external debt, which is said to be US$10,7 billion, is unsustainable and requires careful management as well as possible debt forgiveness.

It will be interesting to see how creditors will react to Zimbabwe’s flawed electoral process.

If Zimbabwe is unable to deal with the debt situation and fails to channel more money (including diamond revenue) into the country’s treasury, then attempts to get lines of credit from non-transparent sources could increase, leaving the country in a more vulnerable position.

Zuma’s statement urging Zimbabweans to simply accept the results of the elections pays little attention to the seriousness of the situation at hand. Many Zimbabweans feel cheated because the credibility of the process that produced Zanu PF’s victory was deeply flawed, thereby also betraying the essence of democracy.

The implication is the return and increase of mistrust and suspicion, and possibly also the reversal of many political and economic achievements by the GNU. For the time being, the country’s transition from independence to freedom remains unresolved.

*Leon Hartwell is an independent political analyst

10 Responses to Implications of the flawed 2013 elections

  1. chimwango August 18, 2013 at 4:23 pm #

    The biggest problem that people in SADC face is that most of the leaders except one are now very good at cheating their on people.The leaders are not bold enough to tell each other the truth.This they demonstrated by endorsing an election in Zimbabwe which did not meet their set out guidelines in fear or favour of one of the contesting political parties.Like it or not that is the truth of the matter.

  2. Colonel August 18, 2013 at 5:06 pm #

    To hell with you Leon Hartwell you racist white Boer they is no stoping Malema is coming land will be repossed and given to the blacl south africans.

  3. Gibson August 18, 2013 at 8:04 pm #

    Thank you Leon for your writing. Forgive the racist rant up there. Yes, indeed the debt overhang remains a real issue and there is need for the new authority to come up with plausible ways of dealing with the debt issue. I don’t think forgiveness will be an option given that it is the same Zpf government that borrowed and abused the funds. Forgiveness is often for a new government… Thank you so much for the comments…

  4. King Tubby August 18, 2013 at 9:13 pm #

    @colonel. You cant be expected to understand such analysis Mr Youth Officer. Meanwhile enjoy your loot whilst you can.

  5. rastafari August 18, 2013 at 9:59 pm #

    Leon Hartwell sir do you think that south African people have short memory they don’t want colonialist in charge of here or no where in Africa we are determining our future we want to use our land and minerals just as other people in Europe and other people worldwide at no time we went to your Europe and demand their land and minerals this s….t is done for no more is you don’t like what we are doing here you are just as free as anyone else to get on a plane or a ship and head back north you will not be miss

  6. Gudo August 19, 2013 at 2:23 am #

    well written article Mr H artwell ,really captures how the majority of zimbabweans are feeling today:that they are independent but not free.

  7. taurai mabhunu August 19, 2013 at 2:17 pm #

    Leon, why don’t you comment about Marikana, about the informal settlements (mikukus) all over South Africa, about the bucket system in 21st century, about drugs and gangsters in townships & schools, in prisons and about the most corrupt police in the whole world – working for the underworld and a partisan judiciary?
    You think we don’t know that the South African mining industry is no longer profitable, their profits come from Zimbabwean operations?We will soon put you down into your rightful place guys.

  8. wasu August 20, 2013 at 8:02 am #

    vanhu hamudi kuudzwa chokwadi ndozvamunonetsera maudzwa munoda kutanga kutarisa kuti anobvepi kunomboitwei kwaanobva mutema here kana kuti mutsvuku. u dont want to concentrate on the content of the article. whether where he comes from there are problems lets just accept the truth

  9. mabhebhi August 20, 2013 at 1:01 pm #

    anopenga murungu uyu hokoyo namalema…..

  10. Skuula August 21, 2013 at 6:19 am #

    Thanx much for ur comment on the matter, but i tend to dffer on all of ur issues, firstly its the Zimbabweans that voted, and besides The LOSER and some in the inner circle, no one has complained about it (majority voters) which means they know whom they have voted for. I want u to check on Thurs, hw packed the Stadium will be. Again on economy check as from next Mon, how things will be, i just want to remind u that the The Zim economy went bad as from the birth of MDC, and again the call for sanctions, the western world do not like bold African leaders, they always find a way to eliminate them- in most cases -KILL. SO where is ur freedom u were talking about, there is no freedom even in SA until the black majority have economic freedom. The elections did not go ur way, or the way u were expecting, so pliz dont label them, i m sorry u say there is no freedom, cause we do want the Swag gang in our country, tell mi hw many pple lose their lives in SA cause they a gay or lesbians, isn’t that compromising freedom cause of immorality. Hw many times did the SA gvt intervened in mine desputes, cause the foreign investors hve threaten to close down cause they dont want to meet the demand of their slave workers. Where is the freedom in SA when most black pple live in tin, cardboard or wood shacks, where is the freedom in SA when most pple a slave workers, unless this is addressed then u wil qualify to talk about freedom, for now u a prophet of doom, enemy of African progress, for ur own info next yr this time Bob will chair SADC. AS of the constitution, it is amended with black pple in mind. And puppets will never have a say in our country.

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