Free and Fair’ is in the eye of the shareholder
(UN) and the African governing bodies on the credibility of the elections continue to plague Zimbabwe’s economy, which has been kept in isolation from the rest of the world for more than a decade.
Great Britain and its allies placed detrimental economic sanctions on Zimbabwe in 2001, in retribution for Mugabe’s confiscation of ‘Zim land’ from white settlers and then farmers, which still suffocate its economy. This ‘tit for tat’ game triggered grave animosity between Mugabe and the ‘Western’ nations. Sanctions imposed on Zimbabwe are even more unwarranted when they stem from states or institutions that are non-transparent and non-democratic.
Such undemocratic and murderous economic sanctions also emanate from political and financial corruption. By punishing leaders that are considered undesirable, world powers dissuade other leaders who would otherwise be tempted to stray from the ‘straight and narrow’.
Mugabe’s human rights abuse also played a huge role in these sanctions.
The recent Zimbabwean elections attracted more attention due to a divergence of views among Africa’s governing bodies, the European Union and UN.
According to the 15-nation SADC Southern African Development Community (SADC) Summit, the member states are content with the election results. The SADC incoming head, Malawi President Joyce Banda, said that ‘the people of Zimbabwe have suffered enough’ and that SADC would engage the UN to seek the removal of sanctions.
This begs the question: whom should the world listen to when it comes to the Zimbabwean election results? The media appears to be trying to settle certain scores rather than displaying the reality on the ground. SADC sent 600 election observers to Zimbabwe and they declared the elections ‘free and fair’. However, the opposition disagreed… but failed to produce substantial rigging evidence to SADC, which subsequently paved the way for Mugabe’s inauguration.
Whom should we listen to?
In a democracy, the voice of the people should be respected, but the international community seems to ignore the Zimbabwean results. The Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), which is led by the outgoing Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, cried ‘foul’ over Mugabe’s alleged electoral fraud, which they labelled ‘monumental rigging’ but failed to prove.
So which voice should we listen to? This question haunts the world and the Zimbabwe. More than 1 000 observers from the African Union (AU) and SADC declared the elections ‘free and fair’. The head of the African Union observer mission to Zimbabwe and former Nigerian president Olusegun Obasanjo said that ‘based on his observations, the elections were credible’.
Many African countries such as Tanzania, South Africa, Namibia and Mauritius (among others) endorsed the Zimbabwean elections and the new government. Botswana is the only country that rejects these election, which it claims to be a ‘farce’: “There is no doubt that what has been revealed so far by our observers cannot be considered as an acceptable standard for ‘free and fair’ elections in SADC,” said Botswana’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Beyond Africa, Canada, USA, Britain and Australia denied the election outcome, citing irregularities that render the election unfair. However, some other countries (especially in the Middle East) congratulated Zimbabweans for the ‘free and fair’ elections.
What is the UN and EU stance over Zimbabwe and sanctions?
The EU foreign ministers met before the Zimbabwean government and agreed that the sanctions could only be removed if the elections were deemed ‘free and fair’. The EU had to rely on other bodies, for example non-governmental organisations to weigh the credibility of the elections.
The UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon didn’t provide a clear answer on Zimbabwe: “Any sanctions imposed on Zimbabwe need to be discussed and done by the member states and intergovernmental bodies. I have been urging the government of Zimbabwe and President Robert Mugabe himself, on many occasions, that there should be fair and credible elections and for a democratic process in Zimbabwe.”
Sanctions on Zimbabwe remain after the ‘free and fair’ elections.
Regardless of the alleged ‘illegitimacy’ of Mugabe’s government, the European Union loosened its screws on the trade of Zimbabwe’s diamonds. The EU’s official journal confirmed on the 25th of September 2013 that an asset freeze had been lifted against the Zimbabwe Mining Development Corporation, which was blacklisted for allegedly channelling funds to President Robert Mugabe’s ZANU-PF. The sanctions are being lifted because EU believes that the company had not participated in the funding of elections.
Belgium’s Foreign Minister Didier Reynders stated that an asset freeze and travel ban remain in place for Mugabe, who won the July 31 elections, extending his 33-year rule by up to five years.
The United States has kept its sanctions on Zimbabwe, including a travel ban and asset freeze on individuals and entities with links to Mugabe, until ‘credible’ reforms are implemented in the country.
Are these sanctions hurting Mugabe or the people of Zimbabwe in general? The US says the elections were flawed so the sanctions will remain. The irony is that they didn’t observe the elections: they acquired the information through the media and NGOs.
“The United States stands by our assessment that these elections, while relatively peaceful, did not represent a credible expression of the will of the Zimbabwean people due to serious flaws throughout the electoral process,” said State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki.
“We have made clear to the government of Zimbabwe and the region that a change in US sanctions policy will occur only in the context of credible, transparent and peaceful reforms that reflect the will of the Zimbabwean people.” The USA based its facts on what the opposition cited as ‘heavy rigging’, despite their lack of evidence.
As a way of protest and dismay at the involvement of Zimbabwe in international affairs with other countries while it is still under sanctions, Britain and Canada refused to send their representatives to the UN Tourism Summit hosted by Zimbabwe. Non-governmental organisation UN–Watch welcomed the reports and attempted to downplay Zimbabwe’s legitimacy in hosting the summit. “Amid reports of election-rigging and ongoing human rights abuse, Zimbabwe is the last country that should be legitimised by a UN summit of any kind,” said UN-Watch executive director Hillel Neuer.
In reaction to the hard stance maintained by the USA and Britain on Zimbabwe, Mugabe threatened a tit-for-tat to Anglo-American firms operating in Zimbabwe. “They should not continue to harass us, the British and Americans,” Mugabe told supporters at the funeral of an airforce officer. “We have not done anything to their companies here – the British have several companies in this country – and we have not imposed any controls, any sanctions against them, but time will come when we will say ‘well, tit-for-tat, you hit me I hit you’.”
Canada maintains a cordial relationship with Zimbabwe, although plagued with concerns.
Germany, Australia, Canada, Britain and the USA have dismissed the Zimbabwean election results, stating there were serious irregularities and lack of transparency. Even Botswana, Zimbabwe’s neighbouring country, has said the elections were not ‘free and fair’, but rather ‘free and peaceful’.The Canadian Minister for foreign affairs openly stated: “Canada has serious concerns about the reported irregularities and lack of transparency of the democratic process. These irregularities and lack of transparency raise doubts about the results that cannot credibly represent the will of the people. We remain deeply concerned by the situation of human rights in Zimbabwe. Canada will continue to work with the Zimbabwean people for a democratic, prosperous future, a future that respects the fundamental rights of the people.”
Is there any hope for Independent Public Media in Zimbabwe?
The media is exhorted to be providing objective views whenever they report on various facets of life. Subjectivity, prejudice and stereotypes would mislead people on the actual reality on the ground. The Herald, a Zimbabwe state-controlled newspaper, reported the total opposite of the privately owned media during the elections.
What’s the way forward for the AU and SADC on Zimbabwe?
On August 28, the AU Peace and Security Council called for the immediate and unconditional lifting of the West’s ‘illegal’ economic sanctions against Zimbabwe in order to foster socio-economic recovery. The UN Security Council’s endeavour to approve sanctions against Zimbabwe was futile as Russia and China voted against the draft resolution. This illustrates the illegality of the sanctions imposed on Zimbabwe.
The AU stated that the poll results must be respected. According to a statement issued at the AU Peace and Security Council 392nd meeting, failure to consider the opinions of the AU and SADC observers is a clear disregard of Africa as a whole. “In the case of Zimbabwe, council further called for the immediate and unconditional lifting of all sanctions imposed on the country and stressed that the lifting of the sanctions will contribute to socio-economic recovery for the benefit of the long-suffering population of the country.”
In a communiqué released at the end of the 33rd Summit of Heads of State and Government in Lilongwe, Malawi, SADC also called for the lifting of the sanctions regimes that have also been condemned by Comesa, the ACP countries and the Non-Aligned Movement, to mention just a few.
According to the outgoing Zimbabwe’s finance minister Tendai Biti, the sanctions had cost the Zimbabwe economy an estimate of USD42 billion. The embargoes shrunk the economy by a factor of over 40% in the past 13 years. Jobs and industries were destroyed and more than two million Zimbabweans scattered around the world. Diseases such as cholera have plagued Zimbabwe, resulting in the deaths of many due to a lack of clean water.
More than two million Zimbabweans condemned the sanctions in the anti-sanction petition started in 2011, all to no avail.
Mugabe is in the USA attending the 68th UN Summit. He is expected to have a number of meetings that might speed the removal of the sanctions on Zimbabwe.
Misheck Makora, Myron Weyers and Siyamthanda Mchiza.