Items filtered by date: Thursday, 14 September 2017

Zimbabwe’s Constitution requires it to hold elections by July 2018. It seems unlikely that the country’s political system will be reformed in time to ensure the election is free and fair. The opposition will therefore be at a disadvantage again. It seems to have abandoned its calls for reform and is focusing on building coalitions.

It is widely believed that the current government does not represent the people. Electoral fraud has been common over the years and the country’s socio-economic crisis continues.

In South Africa and Namibia, former liberation movements have maintained their dominance through credible elections. The polls have met legal and internationally accepted criteria. But in Zimbabwe, the ruling ZANU PF has dominated by abusing the country’s political and electoral systems. Elections have often been deadly for the opposition there.

Zimbabwe’s election history

ZANU PF, which has been in power since independence in 1980, has applied any means necessary to hold on to this position. Elections or no elections, the party is ready to defend its power.

The party manipulated the electoral process in 2000, 2002, 2008 and 2013.

It lost elections to the main opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) in March 2008 but refused to concede defeat. Contrary to earlier practice when presidential, parliamentary and local government elections were conducted separately, the harmonised elections combined all the elections and the ones in 2008 were the first. This led to a bloody presidential run-off in June 2008. The incumbent ZANU PF president claimed to have won again.

A coalition government was formed in 2009 and the parties negotiated a new Constitution, which was approved in 2013. ZANU PF won the 2013 elections. Although there was no evidence of political violence in 2013, forms of electoral chicanery were evident, compromising the legitimacy of the results.

Calls for electoral reform

After its 2013 “defeat”, the MDC resolved not to contest any elections until the system was fair. Together with other (smaller) opposition parties, it boycotted all by-elections for both the local government and the legislature from 2013.

These parties and certain civil society organisations gathered under the umbrella of the National Electoral Reform Agenda (NERA). The group aimed to address problems that compromise the credibility of elections in Zimbabwe.

Why Zimbabwe needs electoral reform

There are four main reasons why electoral institutions in Zimbabwe are in urgent need of reform.

  • Municipal law should align with conventions such as the African Charter on Democracy and Governance.

  • The Electoral Act should align with the new Constitution.

  • The consistently flawed electoral process has created a crisis of legitimacy.

  • Manipulation of the electoral process prevents a transfer of power in Zimbabwe.

Who must reform

The National Electoral Reform Agenda (ZEC) should be the primary target for reform. It has no credibility and has long been considered independent on paper only.

Other targets for reform include:

  • The judiciary. Most judges are perceived as sympathetic to the ruling party’s interests because they are part of its patronage network

  • The security sector. The military, intelligence and police are widely considered partisan

  • The bureaucracy, especially senior appointments. These are subject to manipulation by the ruling party

  • Biased state media

  • Regulations and laws that allow citizens to take part freely in the electoral process such as the Public Order and Security Act

Progress made

In line with the new constitution of 2013, the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) made some changes. Some were voluntary and others were required by the new Constitution. Voluntary reforms are mostly administrative. For example, voter registration is now based on polling stations and on biometric information.

Mandatory or legal reforms include the creation of a new voters’ roll, keeping it secure, giving it to candidates in time and improving voter education. The (ZEC) has also been working more closely with political parties, to stimulate confidence in the electoral process.

These specific achievements are important. But they are probably not enough. They fall short of NERA’s calls. And elections are still threatened by political violence, abuse of state resources by the ruling party and vote buying. The ZEC’s reforms must take place within the framework of other systemic changes outlined above.

Constraints and opportunities

ZANU PF has managed to delay the debate on electoral reforms and the reform of the electoral act. There will not be enough time to make the changes before the 2018 elections.

The opposition’s “Grand Coalition” is not likely to challenge ZANU PF successfully.

That party sees itself as having brought democracy to Zimbabwe. It will not reform itself out of power. Individuals in government and the security apparatus are loyal to the ruling party. This thin line between the party and state has a direct bearing on the political culture of militarisation of government business, fear and repression. In practice, no distinction exists between government and ZANU PF officials especially in the security sector. The party and state are heavily conflated.

The Ministry of Justice controls the finances of the Election Management Body (EMB). The government can get the EMB to waste time so that reforms will not threaten the stranglehold of ZANU PF in the 2018 elections.

Unless civil society sustains its pressure for reform and succeeds, the 2018 elections will only serve to legitimise continued authoritarian rule in Zimbabwe.


Enock C. Mudzamiri, DLitt et DPhil Student in Politics, University of South Africa

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Published in Economy

Bell Pottinger LLP, the U.K. public-relations firm founded by an adviser to Margaret Thatcher and slammed for stoking racial tensions in South Africa, filed for administration.

Bell Pottinger named financial adviser BDO to oversee the process, the newly appointed accountant said in a statement on its website Tuesday. The PR company lost clients and staff over its controversial work for the Gupta family in South Africa and was expelled from the U.K.’s PR trade body last week.

“Following an immediate assessment of the financial position, the administrators have made a number of redundancies,” a BDO spokesman said. “The administrators are now working with the remaining partners and employees to seek an orderly transfer of Bell Pottinger’s clients to other firms in order to protect and realize value for creditors.”

Bell Pottinger, which made a profit of 11 million pounds ($14.6 million) on revenues of 33 million pounds in 2015, was criticized by an industry body after an investigation found its work on behalf of the Gupta family had included a racially-divisive social media campaign. The company’s actions “brought the industry into disrepute,” the U.K.’s Public Relations and Communications Association said.

London-based Bell Pottinger initially sought to sell itself, a move that failed amid the exodus of clients and staff. Executives at Bell Pottinger couldn’t be reached for comment.

The company had attracted attention in the past for taking on controversial clients like former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet’s foundation. According to a 2016 report by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, a U.S.-funded anti-Al-Qaeda propaganda campaign that Bell Pottinger carried out in Iraq included fake insurgent videos used to track those who accessed them.



Published in Business

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