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Can early polls resolve Zim crisis?


The Sadc Troika meeting in Windhoek, the capital city of Namibia, is said to have put pressure on the Harare disputants to resolve the outstanding issues within a month and expressed its desire to see Zimbabwe holding elections next year.

The real question that needs sober analysis is: Can early elections resolve the multiple and multi-layered ailments bedevilling Zimbabwe?

Have those calling for early elections clearly understood the core problems that plunged Zimbabwe into crisis in the first place? Has the inclusive government, Sadc, African Union and other concerned global powers, come up with a new plan to ensure free and fair elections next year?

How are the Sadc guidelines on elections going to be enforced this time around?

The consequences for Zimbabwe and the region of yet another botched election are too ghastly to contemplate.

It is this fear of consequences of another sham election that prompted me to make this short contribution and speak directly to some of the core problems that cannot be resolved by early elections and, worse still, if those elections fail to reflect the general will of the people.

The starting point to avert a deeper crisis is to seek to understand what is meant by the Zimbabwe crisis.
Is it just a question of political legitimacy that can be solved by elections?

My take is that free and fair elections are just part of the solution to the Zimbabwe crisis.

Elections on their own might only solve the crisis of political legitimacy.

Crisis of political legitimacy is just part of a myriad of other key problems.

What must be thought carefully is the issue of a rush to State House by whoever will win the proposed elections, without institutional changes that are oriented towards democracy.

While I understand the sources of growing impatience among those political actors who feel they were denied an opportunity to formally ascend to power at the end of the harmonised elections of 29 March 2008, and the increasing realisation that very little can be done to effect a comprehensive turn-around national strategy without full control of the state, the serious danger is to interpret the Zimbabwe crisis in simplistic terms of regime change.

The crisis is broader than that.
At the centre of the crisis are six main issues:

Failure by Zanu PF to respond progressively to the changing meaning of freedom across generations and time;

The failure by founding fathers/mothers of Zimbabwe to craft a clear criterion of belonging to a post-settler society that went beyond the policy of reconciliation and enforced national unity;

Timid, inconsistent, and partisan-oriented ways of dealing with issues of social and economic justice rooted in a particular history;

Failure of ethnicised and racialised nationalism as a foundation myth of a stable post-colonial political community consonant with values of social pluralism and diversities;

Zanu PF’s consistent refusal to adhere to a clear formula of how power is to be reproduced over time and across generations; and finally;

The crisis of politicisation of the military and security organs of the state to serve a particular regime that dates back to the liberation war.

Unless both citizens and the leadership across different political formations, transcend the current fear of gazing into the future and avoid the dung-beetle approach of marching into the 21st century reverse-wise with the mind perpetually fixated into the past, then a new Zimbabwe remains remote.

What is happening around the ongoing process of constitution-making reveals the unpreparedness of the country for another election.

The present leaders have not yet found the relevant semantics and correct phrases that could adequately encapsulate the signs of the time and express the current longings and demands of the people.

Parroting nationalism or democracy is not adequate. We need to brace ourselves for the future challenges and respond in a rational and progressive manner that enables us to avoid anger and killing each other.

There can be no rebirth of a new Zimbabwe without a new constitution that embraces and reflects the longings and visions of the people.

Pushing the people into election mode now is counter-productive. What must be avoided are quick-fix strategies, be they coming from Sadc or emerging internally.

Zimbabwe desperately needs a Truth and Reconciliation Commission rather than the current feeble Organ on National Healing, Integration and Reconciliation that is not even backed by any statutory instrument and is not informed by seeking truth.

There are still pertinent questions that continue to beg for answers, before the country is ready for elections.

Dr Sabelo J Ndlovu-Gatsheni writes from Johannesburg and can be contacted on: sgatsha@yahoo.co.uk

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