Zim elections: Recognition and God’s Case, No Appeal

RECOGNITION of the result of Zimbabwe’s 2018 harmonised elections was always going to be a matter of basic international relations. One would be forgiven for arguing about which countries recognise their legitimacy in return for either similar recognition or validation of amicable or hostile relations.

Opinion: TAKURA ZHANGAZHA

The presidential spokesperson, George Charamba, was on record prior to the harmonised elections saying that the latter were all about foreign policy and re-engagement. That is to imply that the elections — and an anticipated ruling party victory — were a matter of international recognition and legitimacy, hence all types of observers and media houses were allowed to come into the country in the run-up to the elections.

The opposition, though less brazenly, talked about pursuing the electoral legitimacy of the election to the maximum possible (global) scrutiny levels. This included making claims of an expected victory that would be accepted by the international community (of course, only if it’s theirs) while at the same time preparing to dispute any announcement contrary to its popular expectations.

In both instances, for the ruling and opposition parties, one thing stands out. This election was essentially not quite about the people of Zimbabwe, or the country, but those that would watch it and endorse its political processes as “democratic”, or a lack thereof — and perhaps at least passing some political test as they deem fit and necessary.
This was all in expectation of their respective party’s victory. The major political and enabling technicality was that at least the people would have voted or gone through the motions of “democracy and good governance”, which is an expected and fair enough point.

As it turns out, the regional and continental observer missions have already expressed their opinion on the matter. They do not have any big problem with the electoral process in and of itself. They have their misgivings about the immediate post electoral violence, but not the overall process itself.

Those from the global north are, in the majority, at least, a bit more ambivalent. The European Union, and United States of America affiliated observer missions are a bit more direct in their condemnation of either the pre-election period or the immediate post-election period.

In either case, the ruling and opposition parties are desperate for global attention. Or take it a notch up, the recognition of either the “freeness” and fairness of the elections or the exact opposite by the international community, especially the West.

So the intention of the ruling Zanu PF to have a clean scorecard for this election has apparently fallen flat, based mainly on the events of August 1, 2018. In similar fashion, the intentions of the opposition MDC Alliance of “delegitimising” the election also fell flat, at least in the realm of international relations as a result of the ambiguous approach of the international observer missions.

It is now up to the Constitutional Court (Concourt) of Zimbabwe to make a final decision on the matter-based on arguments presented to it by parties that dispute the Zec results and also of those that agree with the latter. There will be no recourse to appeal the Concourt’s final judgment of the matter. And since God featured prominently in the elections, this is almost like the proverbial ‘God’s Case, No Appeal’ (The title of a book by renowned Africa author Dan Fulani).

A key question that merges is that of the international observer missions, whose opinion matters more. It is clear that it is probably the global north’s observer missions that matter more for both sides of the political spectrum. (We can discuss “decoloniality” another time) It’s a very awkward position for both sides. But it is what obtains even as they await the judgment of the ConCourt on the presidential election results.


From an outsider’s perspective, the key is to measure the ideological perspectives that inform these shared perspectives (between the political parties). First of all is a negation of pan Africanism as a political value. And an acceptance that the global north and its governments can and will determine legitimacy of governments. The contesting political parties are safely ensconced in the neo-liberal ambits of global superpowers, East or West. Therefore there are no big questions on what is the import of endorsement of electoral results. The difference, at least ideologically, was always going to be the same, no matter who emerges as the electoral victor.

The second significant consideration is the fact that the Zimbabwean voting public does not care much for the nuances of this “foreign policy” import of the 2018 elections. And they didn’t need to. It was (and remains) a highly personal, but collective political exercise. If you are with the ruling party, you defend it to the hilt. If you are with the opposition, you also defend it to the hilt, no matter any assumptions of reasonable political debates on issues. It’s personal and highly emotional.

That leaves a third and final consideration, one which is more academic as opposed to being reflective of contemporary reality. This being that Zimbabwe’s political activities will probably remain binary for a while.

Narratives of the ruling versus the opposition parties will continue as of old. But loyalties may not remain as personalised as they appear for now. Issues of “performance legitimacy” and waiting in the wings for “next time” will take centre stage. Political parties will still matter, and even more significantly so, but not just on the basis of personalities.

Instead, it will be more on what the party represents, how it performs at national or local government level and the issues it wants to push forward, popularly so. All this depends on the culture of intra-party democracy that is developed by respective party leaders.

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