|Robert Mugabe, The Dictator|
Think about it. In Angola, Jose Eduardo dos Santos has held onto power since 1979 in what remains, effectively, a one party state. Botswana has been ruled by just one party since independence, with no serious opposition – this is also true for Mozambique, Namibia and Tanzania. The last election in the Democratic Republic of Congo was highly problematic and clearly fixed, at least in part. Swaziland is an absolute monarchy, one of the last remaining in the world. The ruling party in the Seychelles seized power in a coup in 1977 and created a one party state; they haven’t lost an election, or come close, since the return to multiparty politics in the early 1990s.
And in South Africa, despite an obvious commitment to the democratic process, the ANC has strolled to election victories in every national poll since 1994. The party has no experience, yet, of an opposition that poses a genuine threat to its power, or elections in which something other than a two-thirds majority is at stake.
That leaves Lesotho, Malawi, Mauritius and Zambia as the only real flag bearers for the kind of oppositional democracy in which elections are more than just a rubber-stamping exercise, each having experienced at least one vote in which the people decided to install a new government – and were allowed to do so.
|Navin Ramgoolam, Prime Minister of Mauritius|
Nonetheless, SADC’s leaders – Jacob Zuma chief among them, in his role of Facilitator – need Zimbabwe’s elections to go well. SADC has invested just about all of its political and diplomatic capital in overseeing Zimbabwe’s rehabilitation, and were instrumental in establishing the government of national unity which has just about kept Zimbabwe from complete anarchy. The interim government’s most notable achievement has been rescuing the Zimbabwean economy by replacing worthless Zim dollars with the altogether more reliable US dollars – an achievement for which SADC, by laying the groundwork, deserves some credit.
Credible, of course, does not mean free and fair. It does not mean transparent. As the 2011 elections in the DRC demonstrated, it’s a term that can incorporate a certain amount of ballot stuffing and its converse, the disappearance of votes; a certain amount of government intimidation; and an electoral commission that is far from impartial.
These are all things we’re likely to see in Zimbabwe, given the chaos in the build-up to the polls and Zanu-PF’s tight control over the key levers of power: the electoral commission and the security forces. And all will mitigate in favour of another Robert Mugabe election victory, thereby preserving the status quo so beloved of SADC leaders, and, oddly, decreasing the chances of widespread violence, which is far more likely if Mugabe loses (as was the case after the first round of the election in 2008).