Minimum or Maximum Conditions for a Sustainable Election

When the MDC-T’s CONDITIONS FOR A SUSTAINABLE ELECTION IN ZIMBABWE are examined closely, it seems clear that these argue for virtually a total reform of the democratic climate in Zimbabwe. Given the current political climate, these conditions are more in the way of a wish list than a sensible set of conditions that can resolve the political crisis.

No-one, outside of ZANU PF, will argue that we do not need a new constitution, that independent oversights bodies must be established, repressive legislation must be repealed, and that political violence must be contained. However, how much of this can be realistically achieved in the time before the existing parliament must be dissolved: this is June 2013 at the latest, with an election to be held no more than four months thereafter, by October 2013. When MDC-T insists on harmonizing all legislation following the promulgation of a (possible) new constitution, how long could this take? Will the electoral amendments precede or follow the (possible) new constitution? Do we repeal the Presidential Powers (Temporary Measures) Act before or after the new constitution?

So, whilst the MDC-T’s Conditions are a useful guide for the extent of the reforms that will be necessary to guarantee some degree of democracy in a future Zimbabwe, they do not approach the problem of holding an election that will be generally acceptable to citizens of Zimbabwe and the international community. The “wish list” needs to pared down to the “real” minimum conditions for the holding of elections, and these are not so difficult to address (and do not require Zimbabwe to be restored to full democracy as a pre-requisite).

Firstly, the MDC-T is correct in insisting on “security sector governance”. We do not need oaths of allegiance but full adherence to the existing law. Augustine Chihuri is in breach of the Police Act when he states his allegiance to ZANU PF: so fire him after submitting him to a disciplinary hearing. The service chiefs must be appointed with the Prime Minister’s agreement, so Mr. Prime Minister, do not agree to the existing appointments, state this publicly, and tell the world that they are not properly appointed and hence have no rights to carry out their duties. And find some security chiefs (and there must be some) who think that constitutions and laws are to be obeyed. And finally, amend the National Security Council legislation so that this body is wholly civilian.

Secondly, fire the existing Zimbabwe Electoral Commission and start again. There are members of this Commission who were party, in 2008, to the most scandalous elections seen anywhere, let alone in Zimbabwe. Not one member of the past ZEC should have been eligible for re-appointment if Parliament had done its job and debated ZEC’s report on the 2008 elections. The report, and never mind the election, was untruthful and should have been exposed as such. When the MDC-T states that the existing Commission should appoint new staff, it is missing the point: it is the Commission – Commissioners and staff – that need to be overhauled, not merely the staff.

Thirdly, it is obvious to everyone where the problem lies with regard to violence. The police, local government (and government) officials, and traditional leaders provide the machinery that enables “war veterans”, youth militia, and ZANU PF supporters the space and support to carry out the violence and intimidation. Codes for political party conduct will not stop this, and we need the agencies that can control the violence to obey the law themselves, and their own enabling legislation. We need no new laws or repeal of existing laws, merely that the police obey the Police Act – they are not allowed by their own enabling Act to belong to political parties. Traditional leaders are obliged by the terms of their enabling legislation to ensure that the law is obeyed and enforced – they must arrest people that commit crimes in their areas or ensure that the police do: no standing around idly when a member of the MDC is beaten up, has his or her property stolen, and his or her house burnt to the ground. The Office of the Attorney-General could also be included in the list of institutions that must be restored to impartiality: how can anyone have faith in the senior law officer of the country when he publicly declares that he is partisan – he should be fired too and replaced!

The point is that it is the institutions in Zimbabwe that allow fraudulent elections, and, when they do not do their duty according to the law, they must suffer the consequences of their derelictions of duty. Restore these institutions to neutrality and impartiality, and to acting according to their enabling legislation and regulations, and the proxy forces of violence and intimidation will come under control. Restore these institutions to neutrality and impartiality, and normal civic life will return. Restore these institutions to neutrality and impartiality, and there will be free and fair elections. These are the actual minimum conditions for sustainable elections.


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