There has been an agreement between political parties in the Global Political Agreement (GPA) that the unity government is not working, with the President describing it as ‘this animal’. It appears that the political leaders are convinced that the GPA has outlived its usefulness and the only way to resolve this matter is through an early election. There is even suggestion that these elections could come as early as September this year.
The current political problems in this country have their core at disputed elections since 2000 which were characterized by violence and attacks on opposition political opponents. This created a crisis of legitimacy, and subsequent elections have not enabled Zimbabwe to normalize relations regionally and internationally. In fact, the level and intensity of political violence has now been engrained into what is expected around every election in Zimbabwe. Political spaceis the preserve of ZANU PF, enjoying absolute control of the state broadcaster and public media. There are endless reports of opposition political parties’ rallies banned and its representatives harassed by the police.
Since 2000 the SADC regional body has been at pains to try to find a lasting solution to the Zimbabwe crisis, and one of the steps was to create the regional guidelines on elections that there were regional standards for ensuring that elections can be free, fair and credible.
The attempts to follow the SADC guideline on elections in the 2008 March elections, by allowing opposition parties space to go about their campaigning in areas where they had no access, decent media coverage, and the general peaceful environment proved to be disastrous for ZANU PF, as the ZANU PF presidential candidate lost the polls and the party lost its majority in Parliament. Of course, there was the dispute over whether Morgan Tsvangirai had got an absolute majority, but, when the results took six weeks to come out, few believed that he had not, in fact, got an absolute majority.
The lesson learnt from the March 2008 poll, at least for ZANU PF, was that it would lose in a free and fair election and retain its privileges as the party of choice. As a result, the run-up to the Re-Run in June 2008 was a brutal and violent period. Reports of rape, assaults, murders, arson, disappearances, arrests, and many other violations were recorded. The June 2008 electionhas been documented as the worst period of human rights violations during an election, and still runs fresh in people’s minds. Because of its inconclusiveness, a GPA had to be forced on the country to allow for an end to the political impasse.
Since there is consensus that the GPA is not working, the very least the political parties can do is create an environment which allows for free, fair and credible elections to take place, credible in the eyes of all players, including the region and the disliked West. Necessary reforms need to be put in place to ensure that perpetrators of violence are arrested, irrespective of their party affiliation, and that communities are not intimidated and the whole process is peaceful.