What does another disputed election mean for Zimbabwe?

Last week’s poll was crucial for the country’s bid to return to the “community of nations”, but has left it more distant from those shores than ever.

THE August 23 elections have come and gone, but the result is the same — another disputed poll that has left the country more polarised than ever — and facing a bleak outlook.

Last week’s poll was crucial for the country’s bid to return to the “community of nations”, but has left it more distant from those shores than ever.

Zimbabwe has never been more isolated internationally.

This crucial plebiscite has attracted sharp criticism from those who were invited to observe it.

In a rare reproach, the Sadc observer mission sharply criticised Zimbabwe’s election, saying parts of the poll violated Zimbabwe’s own Electoral Act, and fell short of regional and constitutional standards.

Sadc’s refusal to endorse the election due to a flawed process adds a significant layer of complexity in that this is unprecedented criticism of the country’s polls from a grouping that has generally stood by its members.

In the past, Sadc has attracted criticism for endorsing flawed elections in the country.

It noted that “delays on voting day disenfranchised voters as some left before they could vote.”

This failure by Zec was questionable, because, as the Sadc observer mission noted, the election management body had “assured our mission, and other stakeholders, that all necessary voting materials, including ballots, were available and ready for use.”

“The subsequent information from Zec that they did not have adequate ballot papers has the unfortunate effect of creating doubts about the credibility of this process,” noted the mission.

At the time of going to Press, only three regional leaders had “congratulated” President Emmerson Mnangagwa on his re-election, showing that most were unimpressed by the poll.

This regional stance underscores the need for comprehensive electoral reforms.

Since his election in 2018, Mnangagwa strove to break Zimbabwe’s isolation and championed “mutually beneficial partnerships with peoples and nations of goodwill.”

That entailed meeting certain minimum standards of governance and behaviours by the government, the ruling Zanu PF party and other political leaders. The elections were supposed to be seen to meet requirements of a free, fair and transparent poll.

As one of those requirements, Mnangagwa’s government invited observers from around the globe, including those from the United States and the European Union.

The idea behind collaborating with international observers and involving civil society organisations to monitor the electoral process was supposed to help mitigate irregularities and enhance the credibility of  the elections.

That remains the template to follow in future elections, without trying to undermine the credibility of those organisations, or handicapping their operations.

Another disputed election in Zimbabwe simply deepens scepticism about the electoral management process in the country and erodes people's confidence in it, potentially causing further instability.

To navigate this, it’s crucial to establish a way forward that prioritises transparent and equitable elections beyond partisanship or attachment to liberation motifs.

It is highly unlikely that Sadc will care how Zanu PF and the government see themselves as capable of holding anyone in the region hostage through vitriolic remarks by their officials.

As it turns out, Zanu PF’s sesquipedalian spokesperson, Christopher Mutsvangwa was right: “Those who want change must fight for it.

“We did not find the Zimbabwean State, it was not given to us, it was not inherited like some African States, we fought for it,” he told the audience at Chatham House’s Africa Programme a week before the August 23 elections.

“For you to come from somewhere and say you want Zimbabwe to be reformed to suit your circumstances I say go the way we did.

“Go and fight the Zimbabwean State, go outside the country wherever you want and then form your own State."

His comments followed similar sentiments by Mnangagwa to party supporters at a rally in Shurugwi where he said: “No one should assume any role to teach us democracy, we fought for it.”

“We acquired it ourselves. It’s us who have the right to talk about democracy because we fought for it; we have the right to talk about independence because we fought for it, and about sovereignty because we fought for it,” Mnangagwa added.

While Zimbabwe was won through the war of liberation, no party should mortgage the life of ordinary citizens to suppress the will of the people. Ensuring greater transparency within Zec is key to rebuilding trust.

So, Zimbabwe faces another five years of uncertainty.

The ruling Zanu PF party and its elite appear comfortable with the status quo because it gives them more time to rule with impunity.

After all, the party is used to disputes, infighting and chaos. Another disputed election means nothing to it.

What about the common man? Things will stay the same. More uncertain policies, more economic challenges and more public disgruntlement.

As businessman and entrepreneur Nigel Chanakira put it on X (formerly Twitter): Ngoma ndiyo ndiyo! (Same old Zim!).

“The prevailing blatant and brazen corruption, intolerance, misappropriation of resources, hyperinflation and  a fragile exchange rate for all who care to see have led me to another fork in the road.

“Nobody listens and cares anymore within the ruling elite.”

 Alfonce Mbizwo is a journalist with Alpha Media Holdings. He can be contacted on [email protected] and on X @AlfonceZW 

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