As flawed as Zimbabwe’s elections were, it will be hard for the opposition Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) to bring regional pressure to bear on the ruling Zanu-PF, a seminar has heard.
Particularly because the CCC limped on in an election that had many red flags prior to, and during, the process.
With President Emmerson Mnangagwa having already sworn in his Cabinet, and MPs, including those of the CCC, already installed, the opposition is caught in a quagmire.
The CCC was now part of an illegitimate process, said Professor Brian Raftopoulos at a presentation at an event held by the Democratic Governance and Rights Unit, Catholic Parliamentary Liaison Office, and Hanns Seidel Foundation in Cape Town.
“The challenge of [regional lobbying] is that the CCC MPs have already been incorporated into parliament and local government.
“In reality they are already part of the structures, and now they have to balance that with the legitimacy debate and the international and regional diplomacy questions. How do they go about that?” he asked.
While the SADC Electoral Observation Mission report on Zimbabwe was damning, it should not be forgotten Zimbabwe will be assuming the rotational chairpersonship of SADC next year.
Raftopoulos said if Zimbabwe were to get away with the sham elections issue, this could present a problem for SADC.
“What does this mean for any kind of intervention by SADC? Will it create legitimacy issues for SADC?
“If the ruling party in Zimbabwe is allowed to get away with this, what does it say about the region? What does it say about the protocols put in place by SADC in the future?” he added.
And now for more elections in SADC
At the end of this month, there will be elections in Eswatini under the Tinkhundla system.
In November, there are polls in Madagascar, and in December, elections will be held in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Next year, the most watched election will be in South Africa.
As such, Raftopoulos was concerned if the Zimbabwe situation remained unresolved, it would create a bad precedent for elections in the SADC region.
“Here, we are in 2023, with the worst election emphasising the deep lack of democracy in our country and also the very poor, at the moment divided responses, from the SADC region.
“This is going to say something not only about the regime in Zimbabwe but about regional politics,” he said.
For Collen Chibango, the executive director of the Tutuma Zimbabwe Trust, elections in Zimbabwe have always been disputed.
But this time around, the new element was Forever Associates Zimbabwe (FAZ), a quasi-military and state security organ that is used to do the bidding for Zanu-PF.
Chibango did not see why the opposition went ahead with the elections and later still did not go to the courts to dispute the outcome when it was clear the elections were flawed.
“I’m really questioning what the game plan was. To then say we cannot go to court because the courts are captured, with V11s [election results forms for polling stations] available, all captured institutions can be burst,” he said.
Not a sham, but a ‘ritual’
Dr Justice Mavedzenge, a constitutional and human rights expert, said while the elections in Zimbabwe were a sham, they were not the worst in the history of the country.
He called the elections a “ritual” that had been part of Zimbabwe’s political history for some time.
Mavedzenge said some of the worst elections in Zimbabwe were those in the years 2002 and 2008 characterised by violence, killings, and the displacement of people.
He added in the SADC region, this year’s elections in Zimbabwe could not pass as the worst ever but they were “not excusable”.
Mavedzenge gave an example of the electoral system in Tanzania, particularly under the late president John Magufuli.
“In Tanzania, the legal framework does not allow you to challenge the outcome of the elections in Zimbabwe, you can, but the independence of the judiciary comes into question,” he said.
A researcher with the African Centre for Transitional Criminal Justice, Kudzai Mhepo, added Zanu-PF, according to Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa, said “we are the army, we are the courts, we are everything basically”.
As such, all state institutions are captured and bent on keeping Zanu-PF in power.