The Zimbabwe Harmonised Elections, held on 23 August, have come and gone. The reports of the main international observer missions generally agree that the elections were flawed. The SADC Election Observer Mission Statement is particularly damning, pointing out a series of serious problems with the conduct of the election.
In its preliminary report, it stated: “The Mission noted that some aspects of the Harmonised Elections, fell short of the requirements of the Constitution of Zimbabwe, the Electoral Act, and the SADC Principles and Guidelines Governing Democratic Elections (2021).”
These opinions aside, the post-election period is usually a referendum on the legitimacy and credibility of any election.
Zimbabwe has been no exception.
In the aftermath of its election, the Zimbabwean authorities have unleashed force on their opponents, arresting opposition officials and executing a general clampdown across the length and breadth of the country of a sort last seen in the dying days of the Mugabe regime.
In the townships, revellers in bars and other places of entertainment have been attacked by state-linked assailants. Political opponents remain incarcerated, including Job Sikhala, who has now spent a year in remand prison on spurious charges, and Jacob Ngarivhume, who has been sentenced to four years’ imprisonment for merely calling for a peaceful protest.
On the economic front, the Zimbabwean dollar has depreciated by 50%. As a result, there have been increases in the price of groceries, electricity and fuel. School fee increases have left many children unable to attend classes that reopened after the election.
The new cabinet appointed by President Emmerson Mnangagwa is a ritualised expression of loyalty to nepotism and tribalism. The cabinet is drawn from members of his family and his immediate allies and is dominated by people from his ethnic region.
The political rhetoric has also escalated, widening even beyond Zimbabwe.
The head of the SADC Election Observer Mission to Zimbabwe, Dr Nevers Mumba, and Zambia’s President Hakainde Hichilema have been subjected to spurious but serious attacks from senior officials of the ruling party.
This is not the behaviour of winners.
The Zimbabwe Broadcast Corporation recently put out a documentary arguing that the main challenge to the ruling ZANU-PF is the result of a vast conspiracy engineered by The Brenthurst Foundation which has reputedly involved the likes of Hichilema and a raft of African opposition leaders in this endeavour.
Included in this vast conspiracy for the first time is the SADC, now painted as a villainous agent of the West because it had the temerity to criticise the election instead of offering up its usual hand-wringing endorsement.
How desperate must the Zimbabwean authorities be?
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