Flawed elections in Zimbabwe likely to affect SA negatively, analysts warn

By IndepthAfrica
In Article
Oct 21st, 2012

PRESIDENT Robert Mugabe’s push for elections to be held in Zimbabwe soon — with March next year as a possible election date — must worry not only the country’s largest opposition party, the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), but South Africa as well.

The MDC’s concerns about early elections are straightforward: key political reforms have not been completed, the referendum agreed to at power-sharing talks has missed several deadlines, violence has erupted in recent weeks and the voters’ roll — traditionally a key instrument of Zanu (PF)’s victory — is yet to be cleaned up.

But a shrewd Mr Mugabe knows his biggest opponent to the elections plan is South Africa, which the Southern African Development Community (Sadc) has mandated to mediate in the country’s political crisis. Caught up with labour unrest at mines and fighting for his own political survival at the coming African National Congress’ Mangaung conference, South Africa’s President Jacob Zuma’s eyes are off Zimbabwe.

Political observers say this has helped Mr Mugabe’s early election plan. The effect of early polls on South Africa is unclear, but analysts warn it could turn out badly.

“A flawed elections in Zimbabwe will have serious ramifications for South Africa,” says political analyst Charles Mangongera. “Besides the blight it will put on Mr Zuma and Sadc mediation efforts, it will result in a major influx of economic refugees into South Africa. For a country that is battling increasing levels of unemployment, facing labour unrest particularly in the mining sector, such an influx will have disastrous consequences.”

All indications are that Zanu (PF) has abandoned any pretense of resolving any outstanding political issues and fulfilling the SADC -sponsored election roadmap.

The MDC remains equivocal about participating in a previously discredited process, while complaining that the country’s political landscape remains strongly in favour of Mr Mugabe and his Zanu (PF) party. Perhaps the memories of the violent 2008 election have faded or that the protagonists are fed up with the futile, three-year-old union and want an end to it at any cost.

The MDC has started its election machinery, officially launching its campaign last month with the theme “The Last Mile: Towards Real Transformation”

Zanu (PF) appears to be biding its time as polls show it may do well in March. According to a survey by US-based Freedom House published in August, support for the MDC had plummeted from 38% in 2010 to 19%. Over the same period, Zanu (PF)’s support grew from 17% to 31%.

“Although Zanu (PF) is leading the charge towards calling for elections in March 2013, the party does not seem to be taking its usual preparatory steps for elections,” says political analyst Allen Hungwe.

“There seems to be a certain sedentary approach. Could it also be that the party is more focused on other means of taking the elections rather than of canvassing for votes?

“Could it be a case of preserving energy only to unleash it within a few weeks from the supposed elections?”

Patrick Chinamasa, the Zanu (PF)-linked justice, legal and parliamentary affairs minister, made it clear there would be no tolerance of an MDC victory. “Mr Tsvangirai cannot win.

“He has been campaigning and mobilising against the interests of Zimbabweans on many issues, whether talking about land, seeking to reverse the gains of the liberation struggle … and this is where the military comes in,” Mr Chinamasa said. “The military is not going to allow anyone who speaks like that to win.”

His message should sound alarm bells that all progress made under the unity government could be undone during and after the election.

South Africa may find itself once more again with the unpleasant responsibility of having to right the wrongs committed by its northern neighbour.

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