6 March 2013

Zimbabwe: Election Nears, Zimbabwe's Pro-Democracy Parties Hibernate


A police crackdown on civil society organizations suggests Zimbabwe is tensing up as it prepares for elections this year. Thinking back to 2008, our blogger gets a worrisome sense of déjà vu.

The peace-loving people of Zimbabwe accepted the global political agreement - a creation of the nation's top three parties - with the hopes of smooth sailing into a new democratic dispensation. But the government of national unity has failed to create the necessary environment for peaceful elections and a systematic transition to democracy.

This was seen even during the constitutional outreach meetings where political parties coached their supporters on what to say. As I write, I'm receiving word that Radio Dialogue's offices in Bulawayo were raided by the police and the police reportedly confiscated 180 short-wave radio sets.

I will not waste time on the other paranoia-driven human rights violations perpetrated on organizations believed to be a "threat". This systematic use of terrorism will certainly be with us for some time.

'Terrorism' might be a very loaded word but, simply put, terrorism is the use of fear to cow people into submission for various reasons.

All this is being done in the name of national security, peace, sovereignty and independence. The frequency of raids and arrests is both telling and worrying - it is reminiscent of the run-up to the June 2008 elections. That period showed how a government can become neglectful and, what's more, culpable of acts of terrorism against its citizens.

What the autopsy would reveal

Parties in the inclusive government agreed on the draft constitution and, with alarming speed, they are pushing for a Yes vote. 16 March 2013 has been chosen for the all-important plebiscite. But that doesn't give people even four months to scrutinize the draft.

Lovemore Madhuku, who is a constitutional law professor and the chairperson for the National Constitutional Assembly, challenged the decision to hold the referendum in March, but he, unfortunately, lost to President Mugabe. Madhuku's argument holds water despite the politician being a pariah in his cause. He argues that the constitution-making process was not people-driven and should have been driven by an independent commission with wide representation.

I cannot help but agree with Madhuku. Zimbabwe's three political parties may have found each other since the global political agreement, but they lost the people of Zimbabwe in the process. The politicians are all pushing for a Yes vote, as they play dumb and blind to the violation of fundamental rights. If you performed an autopsy on this inclusive government - its death now imminent - you would discover how it suffered from heart failure.

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