A peaceful transition of power is a critical component in every democracy and the on-going efforts to put this in place in Zimbabwe are very welcome. What is particularly worrisome in this country are the pronouncements by military personnel of their allegiance to a particular political party and their declaration that they would not accept certain presidential aspirants regardless of the outcome of elections. Which raises the obvious question: Why bother with elections?
Masvingo Central MP Jeffreyson Chitando (MDC-T) introduced the motion asking Parliament to adopt the motion to have Zimbabwe emulate peaceful transitions such as happened in Malawi, Senegal, Zambia and Lesotho. The MP’s motion also proposed that international observers be invited to monitor the elections as a way to ensure there was no violence that has characterised previous elections and that elections are held in a free atmosphere.
After considerable debate which saw legislators from across the political divide give their positions on the issue, the motion was adopted.
Arguments proffered by Zanu PF against the motion were that the move was not necessary because there was no evidence that power transition would be problematic.
Zanu PF MPs who contributed during debate of the motion, Eric Navaya (Mudzi South), Abraham Sithole (Chiredzi East) and Kudakwashe Bhasikiti (Mwenezi East) argued MDC-T was being pre-emptive of the coming elections and the outcome. They also dismissed suggestions to have Sadc and the UN observers invited to Zimbabwe before, during and after elections saying Zimbabwe was capable of holding its own elections without outside observers.
Their reason was that Zimbabwe was never invited to observe European or American elections. In fact the US and EU electoral authorities invariably invite observers from the developing world.
The motion was nonetheless adopted although it is not binding on the House and can also not be legally enforced because there are no mechanisms to have it implemented. While cognisant of this weakness the MDC-T legislator said he would do all he could to get some action taken towards the realisation of the adopted motion. He would, he said, take the matter to the Sadc Parliamentary Forum to appeal for the implementation of the motion.
Enforcement of the motion would require having custodians of the Bill dealing with matters raised to formulate legislation that enables free and fair elections and a smooth transition of power.
Likelihood of success is however remote, given the position that Zanu PF has already taken with regard to those same issues.
Justice minister, Patrick Chinamasa, has already shown great reluctance to bring to finality the Electoral Amendment Bill while the Information minister has dragged his heels on the issues to do with media reforms.
Pronouncements by the country’s powerful security chiefs to the effect that they will openly involve themselves in issues to do with politics and particularly elections and also that they would not accept certain individuals or political parties taking charge of this country make it imperative that Zimbabwe puts in place a level electoral playing field and also that, as Chitando has proposed, a smooth and peaceful transition of power is guaranteed in the event the incumbent is beaten in an election.
Difficulties in power transition have elsewhere in the world resulted in violence and bloodshed and working in advance to avoid such a scenario can only be hailed.