ONE reason Nigeria’s February elections were so disappointing for champions of democracy in Africa was the sense of dashed hopes — not for a particular outcome, but for a process that would deepen public trust and strengthen the bonds of accountability between the governing and the governed.
Because Nigeria had undertaken important election reforms and invested in technical upgrades intended to bolster integrity and transparency, would-be voters and observers saw an opportunity for a major step forward in the country’s democratic trajectory.
The dismay many expressed in the wake of the general election was grounded in a sense that electoral authorities had let the voters down.
In another of the continent’s major elections slated for this year, the state is taking the opposite approach.
Rather than raising the hopes of citizens that this summer’s election will be an improvement on the last, Zimbabwean authorities seem to be doing their best to dampen would-be voters’ enthusiasm.
The repressive political climate is depressingly familiar. The State continues to persecute opposition politicians and voices of dissent, and has taken steps to further curtail freedom of expression and association.
Police have even stopped musicians from performing songs that condemn corruption.
Against this backdrop, the Zimbabwe’s Electoral Commission (Zec), like all other State institutions, is blatantly politicised and sowing mistrust with its preparations to date.
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A highly controversial delimitation exercise prompted accusations of foul play at best, and incompetence at worst, from politicians, civil society, and even some members of Zec itself.
Despite legal requirements to make the voters roll available for review, Zec has thrown up barriers to transparency at every turn.
Thus far, voter registration efforts, a critically important part of any credible exercise for a country in which large new cohorts of citizens reach the age of enfranchisement every year, have inspired more mistrust than confidence.
Citizens wishing to register have encountered delays, equipment failures and power outages. It is not hard to see why recent polling indicated that less than half of Zimbabweans trust Zec.
As the Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition put it in an open letter to President Emmerson Mnangagwa this month: “The road to Elections 2023 has started on a very bad note.”
It will be up to Zimbabwean citizens to initiate any momentum away from the country’s long downward trajectory.
But that is a tall order for a people struggling to make ends meet, and jaded by politics that are so blatantly engineered to enrich and protect a political and security elite at the expense of everyone else.
In a recent poll, Afrobarometer found that young Zimbabweans are significantly less likely to participate in the electoral process than older generations, perhaps because their experience tells them that elections are not a meaningful way to get government to respond to their needs.
As the United States looks ahead to a calendar full of complex election scenarios in the region, policymakers need a more effective toolkit to combat the insidious influence of this kind of cynical electoral charade, which drags down enthusiasm for democratic governance and ultimately strengthens the hands of all authoritarians, not just those in Zimbabwe.
When “democracy” is reduced to fatally flawed elections that deliver no accountability, reliable rule of law or demand-driven governance, just an expensive exercise in imposing the will of the powerful, the standard playbook of enumerating flaws in the process is insufficient.
At the upcoming US Summit for Democracy, finding ways to enlist regional partners in combatting this dangerous conflation of elections, however flawed, and actual democratic governance, should be at the top of the agenda. - Michelle Gavin
Learners with special needs must be covered
There is need to ensure that learners with special needs and disabilities achieve their maximum potential, live independent lives and contribute to the development of the country as productive citizens to promote self-reliance and empowerment.
Learners with special needs and disabilities with two years industry experience can be trade tested to become a skilled worker by the Higher and Tertiary Education ministry’s Innovation Science and Technology Development Industry and Trade Testing Department.
Learners with special needs with allergies and other special conditions are membership of the Medic Trade Mark Foundation and attend their reviews and resupply at government hospitals.
Special schools have results to show the nation and we would recommend the Special Needs Education Department under the Primary and Secondary Education ministry’s Department of Social Development to bring former students who were placed in special schools across the country to show the results to the nation.
It is sad to note the abuse and exploitation of the rights of persons living with disabilities by legal practitioners and their clients as well as judicial officers.
We would recommend for a recording system at the magistrate courts across the country so that persons living with disabilities and epilepsy are not hard done by the malpractice by some elements that try to take advantage of them. - Winston P G Mawere
Understanding importance of corporate social responsibility
WHILE there is no universal definition of corporate social responsibility, it generally refers to transparent business practices that are based on ethical values, compliance with legal requirements and respect for people, communities and the environment.
Thus, beyond making profits, companies are responsible for the totality of their impact on people and the planet.
Stakeholders expect that companies should be more environmentally and socially responsible in conducting their business.
In pursuit of sustainable development and environmental remediation, local communities must benefit from the proceeds of natural resource extraction which occurs in their locality.
It is expected that mining companies play their role in corporate social responsibility. The idea is that a company should play a positive role in the community and consider the environmental and social impact of business decisions.
It is closely linked to sustainability by ensuring economic, social and environmental value in the work the company is carrying out.
This concept is closely linked to benefit sharing which is a notion found in the Convention on Biological Diversity to which Zimbabwe is signatory.
Benefit-sharing refers to the way resources may be accessed, and how the benefits that result from their use are shared between the people or countries using the resources (users) and the people or countries that provide them (providers).
Section 13(4) of the Constitution provides authority to support benefit sharing.
It provides that: “The State must ensure local communities benefit from the resources in their areas.”
It is, therefore, important to ensure that the benefits resulting from the use of natural resources are shared fairly and equitably between the community and entities exploiting them.
While recognising the importance of benefit sharing, it is crucial that the differential impacts and needs of men and women from mining activities are addressed.
Mining activities in Zimbabwe have resulted in environmental degradation, which reduces the productivity of ecosystems, and by extension, the goods and services that can be provided.
Women and men interact with their natural environment daily for their sustenance and livelihoods.
Yet, pervasive gender inequalities limit women’s opportunities, rights and benefits linked to environmental management, which in turn influence their needs, priorities, roles, responsibilities and decision-making power with respect to the use and conservation of natural resources.
As a result, women are affected differently than men by biodiversity degradation and loss.
Consideration of the gender dimensions of natural resource management involves understanding women’s and men’s use of natural resources; identifying the institutions — both formal (e.g, policies, laws etc) and informal (e.g, customs, values, norms etc.) — that influence women’s and men’s use, management and conservation of natural resources impact women and men differently. - Zimbabwe Coalition on Debt and Development