Is Zimbabwe heading towards another disputed election?


By Brian Raftopoulos

As Zimbabwe’s elections on 31 July approach, the Southern African Development Community is under pressure to complete its mandate from 2007.

In September 2008 the three major political parties in Zimbabwe entered an inclusive government following a contested election in June that year. The Global Political Agreement (GPA), as it was called, was facilitated by the Southern African Development Community (SADC), and the facilitation was led by the South African government.

After nearly five years under a very problematic and intensely contested inclusive arrangement, the people of Zimbabwe face another election on the 31st July in a battle for the presidency, parliament and council representatives. The setting of the election date was announced unilaterally by President Mugabe, following a decision by the constitutional court clearly directed by Mugabe’s party.

This was contrary to the terms of the GPA which set out that this decision would be made by consensus of the three political parties, Zanu PF, MDC-T and the smaller MDC formation. Mugabe’s failure to abide by the terms of the GPA on this issue represented the latest in a long list of infringements by his party on the terms of the agreement.

Many of the key reforms envisaged under the GPA, such as media reform, substantive changes in the electoral laws and security sector realignment were blocked by Mugabe’s party in the last five years. The latter issue was particularly important given the fact that the security establishment effectively blocked the MDCs from translating their electoral victory into state power in 2008.

As a result, the forthcoming election is taking place under conditions which once again bode ill for the conduct of a free and fair plebiscite. The combination of a shortened voter registration period and a voter’s roll which, according to recent reports contains serious irregularities,...Read more

Mon, July 29 2013 » 2013, Elections, Zimbabwe Update » Leave a comment

SPT – Zimbabwe Update No.5. October 2012: Towards another stalemate in Zimbabwe?

SPT - Zimbabwe UpdateBy Brian Raftopoulos


Four years after the signing of the SADC facilitated Global Political Agreement in Zimbabwe, the outcome of the process remains fiercely contested and in the balance. The Agreement, which set out to prepare the political process for a generally acceptable election after the debacle of 2008, has been marked by severe ebbs and flows, all too characteristic of the battle for the state that has constituted the politics of the GPA. At almost every stage of the mediation from 2007 and the implementation of the GPA from February 2009, intense conflicts over the interpretation of the accord have left their debris on the political terrain, at the heart of which has been the struggle over the meaning of ‘sovereignty’. Around this notion Zanu PF in particular has woven dense layers of political discourse combined with the coercive force of the state that it continues to control. The major aim of this strategy has been to manipulate and stall the reform provisions in the GPA, and to regroup and reconfigure its political resources after plunging to the nadir of its legitimacy in the 2008 electoral defeat.

The Constitutional Process.

Between 2009 and the present an important area of contestation between the Zimbabwean parties has been the struggle for constitutional reform. Article VI of the GPA set out the ‘fundamental right and duty of the Zimbabwean people to make a constitution for themselves’, also stipulating that the process would be carried out by a Select Committee of Parliament composed of the parties to the agreement. Constitutionalism and constitutional reform is often a contradictory and highly contested process with different parties bringing different political agendas and competing imaginaries to the process. Zimbabwe is no exception to this trend, and the major political parties...Read more

Mon, October 22 2012 » Constitution, Zimbabwe Update » Leave a comment

SPT – Zimbabwe Update No.4. March 2012: The Shadow of Elections

SPT - Zimbabwe UpdateA great tragedy of the Mugabe regime has been the deconstruction of national institutions, which some analysts have mistaken for a ‘radicalised state.’ In effect Zimbabweans have witnessed a destructive form of vanguardist politics in which a particular party has claimed the right to speak for the majority and in so doing has turned its back on the establishment of stable, functioning national institutions, through which the generality of Zimbabwean citizens could hold those in power to account. In the process, on the one hand, the messaging from the most arrogant section of this elite has increasingly been couched in terms of a priestly imposition of a selective dogma, dressed in a nationalist cloth that provides precious little cover for most of the population. Additionally, through control over the centralised structures of coercion in the country, key members of the security sector have spawned informalised structures of violence that threaten once again to mar the prospects for a generally acceptable election outside of a fuller implementation of the GPA.

On the other hand the countries of the West, through an increasingly problematic sanctions regime, have added to the political gridlock in Zimbabwe in the guise of being the arbiters of global human rights. In the face of the inconsistencies in the application of the ‘right to protect’ by the Atlantic emporium in contemporary global politics, this potentially noble project is in danger of being cast as yet another form of imperial arrogance.

At present the rush to elections by a beleaguered party of liberation must be set against this broader context, and the dangers that a rapid descent into a plebiscite are likely to bring upon Zimbabwean citizens. In a useful article in the Zimbabwe Independent 17th February 2012 (‘Zimbabwe: Elections in 2012 or GPA/GNU 11’), Ibbo Mandaza clearly spelt...Read more

Fri, March 9 2012 » Elections, Zimbabwe Update » Leave a comment

SPT-Zimbabwe Update No.3. June 2011: Beyond Livingstone

SPT - Zimbabwe UpdateThe excitement over the resolutions of the SADC Troika meeting in Livingstone, Zambia, at the end of March 2011, was largely focused on the stronger stance taken by the organ over the abuses of the Mugabe regime, and more particularly the continued obstacles placed by the latter over the implementation of the GPA. In effect however, the Livingstone resolutions brought into effect the major strength of the SADC mediation, which has been to lock the Mugabe regime into structures of accountability. Whatever the weaknesses of the GPA, and there are many, it has forced Zanu PF into closer accountability for its behavior at different levels including cabinet, parliament, JOMIC, the constitutional reform process, SADC, the AU and its relations with the West.

For authoritarian parties like Zanu PF, all these forms of having to answer to various fora are anathema, as they provide varying means of eroding the monopoly of power that the regime has become completely accustomed to. The accumulation of small reforms and the slow dispersal of power provide a major challenge for such structures of authoritarian power, as they provide the possibility of a cumulative momentum of dissent that can be very difficult to control. When combined to the major challenge of the succession problem in Zanu PF, now an very urgent issue in the light of Mugabe’s waning health, these factors have pushed Zanu PF into emergency election mode.

The challenge for Zanu PF since the signing of the GPA, and more urgently following the Livingstone meeting, has been to decide on what strategies to deploy in the next election campaign. The party’s recidivist impulse to return to violence is clearly very strong, particularly given the increasing control of the party and the state by the securocrats. Moreover the reports of various human rights organization have shown growing evidence of the low level, pre-election intimidation...Read more

Fri, June 24 2011 » Global Political Agreement, Zimbabwe Update » 1 Comment