Elections and Reform

The Supreme Court recently ordered that by-elections be held in Bulilima East, Lupane East and Nkayi South, where MDC MPs had been expelled from their party. This legal decision should be celebrated by all democracy loving citizens as the constituencies had been robbed of representation in Parliament. Democracy is about representation and rightly so, the highest court dismissed Patrick Chinamasa, the Justice Minister’s argument that the government had no resources to hold the by-elections.

The Court decision came at an opportune moment for ZANU-PF as they have been pushing the elections agenda, but that agenda had been resisted by the other partners in the Inclusive Government. The decision gave ZANU-PF an excuse to bait other parties in the inclusive government with a “mini general election” for a total number of 31 vacant constituencies. It is strange that Minister Chinamasa, who had previously appealed an earlier decision by the High Court citing financial constraints as the basis for government’s inability to hold elections in the 3 constituencies, suddenly says it makes sense to have elections in the rest of the 28 vacant constituencies. Where is the money coming from this time?

One thing must not be forgotten; democracy means much more than elections and electioneering. In fact elections only serve to test the credibility of the institutions to uphold democracy. In the Zimbabwean case these institutions have failed in the past and no meaningful reforms have been carried out. The same conditions that led to election disputes a decade ago are still in place.

It is a known fact that the ZANU PF National Congress of December 2011 endorsed that elections should take place to end the Inclusive Government and this has been the consistent pitch.  The MDC formations fell hook, line and sinker for this plot.

It is worrying therefore when there is talk of elections in not 3 but 31 constituencies. It is even more worrying to hear the MDC endorsing the idea to have these elections, declaring their readiness and arguing that the elections represent an opportunity to “test ZANU PF sincerity especially on ending violence”.

Has the MDC forgotten the violence that characterised the June 2008 run-off election? Have they forgotten their mandate in the GPA, to restore the credibility of democratic institutions that had been hijacked by the previous government to sustain prolonged stay in power?  They have not yet secured the replacement of the archaic Lancaster House Constitution with a democratic one to pave the way for credible elections, let alone to remove the structures of violence.  Without security sector governance, and the impartiality of the police, traditional leadership, local government officials, the Office of the Attorney-General, the Registrar General and the opening of the state media, do they think these elections will be free and fair? Surely they will not be because nothing has really changed. A few days ago MDC Secretary General, Tendai Biti was forced to hold a rally in the bush by soldiers. A week ago it was reported that a whole battalion was deployed in Rusape instilling fear and telling the residents of Rusape to vote for ZANU PF. Jabulani Sibanda the leader of the war veterans has been on a mission especially in the Southern provinces threatening villagers against voting for MDC. And the army generals have not made it any better by courting controversy every day.

The structures of violence are still present in the communities. If the willingness of both parties to go for elections without effecting the necessary reforms is a ‘popularity contest’ it is a foolish juggling of democracy and it makes a mockery of the people’s victory at the SADC Summit in Luanda in June which stressed the need for a clear electoral road map and full implementation of the GPA before rushing for elections. Therefore the slogan “No Political Reforms, No elections” should always carry the day because responsible politicians should never allow intimidatory tactics and violence to continue to be part and parcel of our culture. MDC will have no-one to blame but itself if this “testing” is endorsed by the party.

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