HARARE – Following the dubious elections of 2008, the African Union meeting in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt, mandated Sadc to oversee, among other things, the transition to electoral democracy in Zimbabwe.
Last week, I highlighted the primacy of electoralism in democratic transition in Zimbabwe.
The significance of electoralism, contrasted with the current fascination on constitutionalism, found immediate traction after comments by two senior Zanu PF officials recently.
Patrick Chinamasa and Rugare Gumbo stated the military would not countenance an MDC electoral victory.
These comments follow similar remarks by military elite over the years. These people obviously do not have respect for the current Constitution, and are unlikely to revere a new one.
The main focus, therefore, should be on mechanisms of removing Zanu PF from power instead. It has been clear Zimbabweans need external assistance to achieve this goal.
As pointed out, Sadc has a primary mandate to facilitate electoral democracy after the chicanery of 2008.
It will need to ensure mechanisms for free and fair elections are in place. A corollary of the Sadc intervention is to instil confidence among Zimbabweans in the electoral process.
But the message that Zanu PF is transmitting is antithetical to this mission.
According to Zanu PF, the people’s vote will not matter unless it is cast in their favour.
No matter how Zanu PF may want to dress these comments in the “protecting the gains of liberation” narrative, the naked reality is it wants to go against the will of the people in the event of a Morgan Tsvangirai victory.
No regional or international law allows a coup against any legitimately-elected government, more so for a dishonest liberationist narrative, when we know Zanu PF wants to milk the economy of this country as much as possible and for as long as possible.
We have heard the threats of a coup a number of times now. Sadc must now respond, and respond publicly.
Sadc ought to respond publicly because these threats have implications on its mission on Zimbabwe and secondly on voter-behaviour in Zimbabwe. I take these in turn.
Firstly, a public response will restore faith among Zimbabweans in the Sadc facilitation role.
Lindiwe Zulu, one of Zuma’s facilitation team, may be — rather unsurprisingly — a pantomime villain to Zanu PF for her alleged megaphone diplomacy.
But her public statements have lent a modicum of faith in Sadc among Zimbabweans seeking democratic transition.
Sadc also has a duty to remind Zanu PF of the obligations under the Sadc Principles and Guidelines Governing the Conduct of Democratic Elections, which outlaw unconstitutional changes of government.
This, of course, includes unconstitutional retention of power.
The idea that people must vote for a particular candidate, or risk a military coup if his rival wins, defeats the whole purpose of elections and what Sadc is working towards.
Secondly, and more significantly, the public disapprobation will help create confidence among the electorate. Elections do not take place without people.
It is bad enough that many people have been dissuaded from voting in the past because of violence.
It is even worse for the electorate to learn that even if they vote, their vote will be ineffectual after all.
Many Zimbabweans that do not subscribe to Zanu PF politics are today asking themselves: “Why vote then if the outcome is predetermined?”
Sadc has invested immense political energy on Zimbabwe. If Sadc is to realise its desired outcome in Zimbabwe, it must now call Zanu PF to order, and publicly.
Sadc may deal with a coup if it eventuates. For now, it owes people of Zimbabwe public assurances that electoral democracy will be upheld.
Zanu PF’s threats of a coup should not deserve the dignity of “quiet diplomacy” or private disapproval.
Sadc needs to censure the party and its military cohorts publicly and remind them that actions which contradict regional and the sub-regional norms have consequences.
Anything short of this will encourage Zanu PF to continue with these threats, resulting in the loss of confidence in the next elections among Zimbabweans.
With Zanu PF pushing for elections early next year, such assurances could not be more propitious. – Conrad Nyamutata