HomeOpinion & AnalysisColumnistsIf ED gets away with it, then Kabila can too

If ED gets away with it, then Kabila can too

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WE knew, even before the first vote was cast, that Zimbabwe’s election was marred by serious irregularities. These included, but were certainly not limited to: a partisan electoral commission; 250 000 suspicious entries on the voters roll, including one for a 140-year old man; and state media’s sycophantic coverage of the ruling party.

Guest column: Simon Allison

Reinforcing these concerns was the narrowness of Emmerson Mnangagwa’s margin of victory. The incumbent avoided a run-off election by just 39 000 votes — a gap so small that even minor irregularities may have tipped the balance in the President-elect’s favour.

The aftermath of the vote has done little to allay fears that the election was rigged. The sight of soldiers opening fire on unarmed protesters in Harare doesn’t belong to any democracy, while the ongoing purge of opposition leaders — who are being harassed, intimidated and arrested on spurious grounds — is indicative of a regime that is insecure in its power.

So far, so troubling. But perhaps even more troubling has been the unwillingness of the region to speak out on any of these issues. Instead, the Southern African Development Community (Sadc) and regional superpowers, South Africa and Angola, have been content to rubber-stamp a flawed election and turn a blind eye to the political violence which followed.

Cyril Ramaphosa, South African President and Sadc chair at the time, called Mnangagwa four days after the vote to congratulate him on his win and went no further than expressing “concern” about the violence, in which seven people died.

Joao Lourenco, Angolan President and chair of the Sadc organ on politics, defence and security cooperation, praised Zimbabweans for conducting themselves in an “exemplary” manner, and urged political leaders to “rise above the unfortunate challenges of the immediate post-election period”. Like Ramaphosa, Lourenco urged Zimbabwe’s opposition leaders to express their grievances through the courts, even though Zimbabwe’s judiciary has long been compromised in favour of the ruling party.

In diplomatic-speak, this is effectively a ringing endorsement of Mnangagwa’s election. According to Sadc, there’s nothing to see here.

This is worrying news not just for Zimbabwe, but also for another Sadc country heading into a make-or-break election this year: the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
Originally scheduled for December 2016, DRC President Joseph Kabila has repeatedly delayed the vote in a transparent effort to keep himself in power.

It is only now, nearly two years later, that Kabila has finally anointed his successor — Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary, known more for his loyalty to Kabila than his record in government. It is widely assumed that, should he win, Shadary will serve as a puppet, allowing Kabila to pull the strings even if he has no formal position in government.

But Shadary and Kabila face formidable opposition. Top challengers include the exiled Moise Katumbi, who was recently denied entry back into the country; Felix, son of the late opposition icon Etienne Tshisekedi and Jean-Pierre Bemba, the former warlord who returned to Kinshasa earlier this month after his conviction for war crimes was overturned on appeal at The Hague.

There is no doubt that the December 23 election will be a close contest. But Kabila and his placeholder have one major advantage over their rivals: the opportunity to manipulate various State institutions in their favour, including the electoral commission, State media and the security services.

And, thanks to the recent Zimbabwe example, Kabila can do so knowing that the region may not complain. It may not complain about the irregularities on the voters’ roll. It may not complain about the use of live ammunition against unarmed civilians. It may also not complain when state security agents round-up opposition leaders en masse.

In Zimbabwe, Sadc once again set the democratic bar distressingly low. Congolese citizens could be the next to face the consequences of its inaction.

 Simon Allison writes in his personal capacity

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3 COMMENTS

  1. Are you writing from an informed perspective or from hearsay, conjecture and wild allegations being thrown around by opposition activists? I really wonder.Are you in a position to prove these 250 000 “suspicious entries” on the Voters Roll? If so, that will be really a knock-out sucker punch. And where in the voting world can a win by 39 000 votes be regarded as “so small a margin that minor irregularities may have tipped the balance”? You must be one of those proponents of land-slide victories that in this day and age of democratic reformation can only be garnered in “closed societies” like North Korea. What winning margins do you experience in your own countries like the UK, France and the USA by the dominating,ruling parties like New Labor, Conservative Party, Democratic Party or the Republicans? May be you can care to shed light and school us “primitive Africans” in our “undemocratic societies.”

  2. “Akachenjera anobetsera kudzima moto wapisa imba yasawira usati wayambukira paimba yake!” (A wise man would help put out the fire burning the neighbour’s house because a sudden gush of wind may set his own house ablaze.)

    The deafening silence from the ordinary people in SADC at the foolish decision to rubber stamp Zimbabwe’s rigged election was very disappointing and now it is the ordinary people who will pay dearly for it. Every leader in the region will be tempted to rig the elections using the same dirty tricks. Monkey see, monkey do!

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