African Democracy

July 20, 2008

How to lose an election in Africa but stay in power

Filed under: Zimbabwe — africandemocrat @ 2:10 pm
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

The latest idea in African Democracy is to rig an election then refuse to step down when it becomes obvious that the voters do not want you.  Then you call in a negotiator from the UN, AU or SADC, depending on where your country is situated, and negotiate a “government of National Unity”.

GNUs can work to the benefit of the country involved if they are an intentional result of democratic elections.  For instance, in South Africa, after the first inclusive election where the ANC won overwhelming support, they chose to appoint some former Apartheid Government representatives as Cabinet Ministers and included the Inkatha Freedom Party leader, Mangosutho Buthelezi too.  That worked well enough, but there was no dispute about the election results in that case.  It did not take long for the remnant of the white National Party to throw in the towel and join the ANC or other parties.  The former whites-only National Party no longer exists in South Africa.

In Kenya, the incumbent, Mwai Kibaki was accused of rigging the election.  He won, but the opposition took to the streets and in bloody violence, more than 1000 people died.  Kofi Annan negotiated a deal where Kibaki stayed as President and his rival, Raila Odinga was made Prime Minister and the Cabinet was more or less doubled to allow for all the top echelon of both parties to “share power”.

It’s wasteful to double up the number of Cabinet Ministers, and poor countries like Kenya can ill afford the luxury.  Every sitting Minister must be provided with staff, cars, houses and so forth.  The situation lends itself to the elite living the high life at the expense of the poor, and does not lead to good or efficient governance.

In Zimbabwe, the situation is not like Kenya in that the dividing line between the parties is not along tribal lines.  Both Mugabe and Tsvangirai are Shonas, and both the ZANU-PF and MDC parties have members from all ethnic and racial groups.

For Robert Mugabe and the ZANU-PF party, the writing has been on the wall for nearly a decade.  ZANU-PF has been holding elections on a regular basis, but their conduct has become increasingly questionable, and finally it has become obvious that the electoral process is just a sham to keep Mugabe and ZANU-PF in power.  Even according to the official results, ZANU-PF lost to the MDC party, and Tsvangirai garnered more votes than Mugabe for President.  The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission held back the results of the March 29 election for so long that most commentators consider it obvious that behind the scenes the results were being doctored.  Eventually they released the result that Tsvangirai had indeed won more votes than Mugabe, but that neither candidate had won the 50% plus one vote needed for outright victory.  MDC claims that that is untrue and that Tsvangirai won around 70% of the vote.

There are several reasons why ZANU-PF wants to hang on to the Presidency and has accepted that they lost their majority in Parliament.  Firstly, the President gets to appoint a number of unelected members of the Senate.  Secondly, it is relatively easy to change the balance of power in Parliament via by-elections.  It’s easy enough to arrange for 10 to 20 MDC MPs to disappear, hold by-elections and ensure that the results are in favour of ZANU-PF.

So, Mugabe has been sworn in as President of Zimbabwe for the sixth time.  This time, however, is different.  A number of African countries have stated outright that his Presidency is illegitimate.  The EU, USA, UK and many other countries have not recognised Mugabe or ZANU-PF as the legitimate, duly elected representatives of the Zimbabwe people.  The Southern African Development Community (SADC) and the Pan-African Parliament election observers have unequivocally stated that the elections were not free or fair.  The African Union has made their boldest statement yet against Mugabe and ZANU-PF, although the wording of their statement was insipid by most standards.  Nevertheless, Mugabe knows that he does not enjoy the unconditional support and adulation from the rest of Africa that he formerly enjoyed.

Hopefully, Zimbabwe is the turning point for African Democracy.  Hopefully, this time there will not be compromise at all points.  According to Zimbabwe law, Tsvangirai should have been sworn in as President when no run-off had occurred within 15 days of the original election.  A GNU is a poor result for the people of Zimbabwe who have had enough of Mugabe and ZANU-PF and want them out of power.  One can argue that Tsvangirai isn’t up to the job and that without Mugabe and/or various other ZANU-PF people in positions of power that the military and militias will not accept a change in government.

Well, Nelson Mandela made the point recently that the military forces are there to serve the country, not to be involved in politics.  Settling for a GNU in Zimbabwe because the Generals have made claims that they will never server anyone but Mugabe is a poor show for Democracy in Africa.

Rather than settle for some sort of “power sharing” the MDC would do better to continue to occupy the high moral ground, set up a government in exile, and take the struggle for democracy to the countries surrounding Zimbabwe, and the capitals of the world.  It’s only a matter of time before the harsh economic realities cause ZANU-PF to implode, break up into smaller factions and cease to be a force in Zimbabwe politics.  The support, real or imagined, that ZANU-PF currently gets from Pretoria will evaporate in 9 to 10 months.  The collapse of the Mugabe regime is only a matter of time, and Mbeki’s time is up in April 2009, so the intransigence of South Africa in the UN and elsewhere is likely to end then, or even earlier.

There are two opinions about whether Mugabe and other top ZANU-PF people should be prosecuted for crimes against humanity.  The one argument is that they should be granted immunity and allowed to retire with handsome pensions.  The other is that they should be hauled off to The Hague and brought before the International Court.  The proponents of the first approach claim that it is pragmatic and will lead to a quicker resolution of the Zimbabwe situation and lead to earlier relief of the suffering of the ordinary Zimbabwean.  Those who favour the second approach claim that leaders who brutalise their fellow humans should not be allowed to get away with it.  The second approach does seem to be gaining ground in Africa, and former dictators are getting tickets to The Hague.  Should expedience triumph over justice?  What will stop future leaders from doing the same?  There are thousands of young Zimbabweans who have been conscripted to do the dirty work of the ZANU-PF leaders who are now damaged by their involvement.  What is going to turn them around and help them to deal with their violent past?  Certainly not seeing their leaders get away scot free.  Accountability is going to be a big part of the rehabilitation of Zimbabwe.  Some form of Truth and Reconciliation process will be necessary to re-integrate the lowest levels of militia thugs into society.  Those higher up the command chain ought to be held accountable for their actions and dealt with accordingly.  What happens in Zimbabwe will affect the progress of Democracy in Africa.  If we allow crimes against humanity to go unpunished, when will the brutality ever stop?

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1 Comment »

  1. […] to lose an election in Africa but stay in power Horseman wrote an interesting post today onHere’s a quick excerptThe latest idea in African Democracy […]

    Pingback by test » Blog Archive » How to lose an election in Africa but stay in power — July 20, 2008 @ 4:07 pm | Reply


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