Observer missions grossly indecisive

HARARE - After years of political turbulence, Zimbabwe is a country desperate for normalcy.

It is, thus, unsurprising to hear people say, despite the suspicious conduct of the last election, we must move on.

The “move on” brigade discourages current legal recourse over the election. It is, according to this camp, an exercise in futility because of a biased judiciary.

But there are many other reasons for the litigation, not least public exposure of the rather curious information emerging over the past few days.

Legal action is a non-violent expression of grievance. In this case, it provides opportunities to test electoral and constitutional law, and produce a historical record.

Thus, litigation has jurisprudential value, notwithstanding the outcome.

It is common cause that the reputation of the judiciary in Zimbabwe is tainted.

The judiciary is perceived to be institutionally biased towards Robert Mugabe and Zanu PF.

However, the integrity of a legal institution, or lack of it, can only be determined by continuously subjecting it to examination.

If Zimbabwean judges are inclined to conducting themselves unprofessionally, they need to be exposed at every opportunity rather than the aggrieved resigning to so-called moving on even in the face of possible injustice.

The “move on” brigade is dishonest. Within its ranks are known strident critics of Mugabe.

They have relentlessly agitated for redress of Gukurahundi and Murambatsvina excesses, for instance, events that took place years ago.

Today, these people would not even brook any suggestions about “moving on.”

The upshot being, if there is prima facie evidence of injustice, it must be investigated. You may not like the person or party seeking redress but let justice take even its doubted course.

Since the elections, a great deal has emerged. There were certainly some profoundly suspicious occurrences and revelations, not least the alleged role of Israeli company Nikuv.

These allegations need to be tested. The onus is therefore on the MDC to advance a compelling case.
It is improbable but not impossible for the court to uphold the case if the evidence is too overwhelming even the most biased judges would be too embarrassed to ignore.

It would have been helpful if the election observers had determined the fairness and unfairness of the polls expeditiously.

It would seem the observers will arrive at that determination at their own convenience.

The electoral observation process seems ineffective; its framework fraught with ambiguities and contradictions, almost to a point of deception.

Apart from “free” and “fair”,  “legitimate”, “credible” and “expression of the will of the people” have all been added to what now almost amounts to wilful obfuscation.

The preliminary reports of the observer missions cite a litany of violations, but at the same time seek to pass the elections as successful.

South African deputy minister of Foreign Affairs Ebrahim Ebrahim is right in asking how an election can be termed “successful” when it had not been fair.

The African electoral observation practice would be better served by a pithier framework that simply determines “free” and “fair” expeditiously rather than load itself with unnecessary abstractions.

It is puzzling that observations that have had long-term missions in Zimbabwe would dither or find it difficult to determine whether an election was fair or not.

Again, one wonders what a belated conclusion on this aspect will serve.

An electoral observation practice that withholds pronouncements on the fairness or unfairness of an election beyond the inauguration of alleged beneficiary of alleged electoral malpractice serves no purpose.

If the MDC challenge fails, Mugabe will be declared president in a few weeks.

Let us suppose the observers then release final reports declaring the elections were unfair.

What purpose would they serve? Would the AU or Sadc suggest a re-run of elections which they deemed fulfilled the “free” part?

What is the significance of a conclusion of unfairness of an election?

Organisations that send observers need to ask themselves pointed questions about exactly what they seek to achieve.

We may have clamoured for observers but these missions are proving woefully indecisive, perhaps even deliberately so, and thus unhelpful.

The missions risk turning into useless charades unless they have strong and decisive meaning attached to them.

Comments (5)

If anything the observers are playing a huge part in the perputuation of the Zim crisis..what does 'free but no fair' mean in general terms..Either they were free and fair or the are not, period. Its not like Zimbabwe is the only country holding elections, there is Madagascar down the road, and Mozambique soon after. The SADC and AU should be clear on what they want their obsever teams to do..if they agree they want them to just provide validation without looking, fine, it is their decision but to send a whole team that comes back to HQ with loose ends like what has been done by both the AU and SADC in the Zimbabwe scenario is not fair. Whatever differences Mr. Mugabe and Mr. Tsvangirayi do not deserve to be dangled on the AU/SADC chain like puppets and kept in limbo about the true report of the two bodies' observation. It smacks of washing hands clean of the whole affair by the two bodies or arroganct kick in the face at worst..What is so difficult in making a clear and unambiguos statement like what the Chinese have done..Isnt it said a bad decision is better than no decision at all. The AU/SADC should remember they are representatives of the continent and a billion faces are turned to them for leadership more so in these elections where losers are always crying foul and in some instances with good reason too. Perhpas rather send observer missions the two bodies should send in seperate observers to see the pre-election period, say 90 days in advance with a per-capita component of the observer population lets say one observer for every 10 000 voters..these can pronounce on the readyness of the country to hold elections and a seperate group to observe and adjudicate on the fairness of the poll with a special court of arbitration established in Addis Ababa..Otherwise this circus will continue to blight the continent.

gutter poet - 13 August 2013

Like English poet Chaucer says: Flee from the crowd and dwell with truthfulness. The AU should split itself into those democratic states and the demonic ones..just like they have done with geographic bodies like SADC, ECOWAS and so on..They have done this with coup plotters, where they have made it clear that those who use guns to assume office have no place at the AU dinner table ..they should do the same who are pretending to practice democracy..Audit the countries and those found with a democratic deficit should not be allowed to attend the dinners until they play ball..People like Gambia' leader, Equatorial guinea, the King in Swaziland, the DJ in Madagascar should be made to understand they are simply not invited to soil everyone in Addis. Lets also see establishment of the Human Rights and Election court with permanent election supervisory bodies..Come on Madam Zuma, time to shake the continent of its warts and all.

gutter poet - 13 August 2013

If SADC and AU want people to take them seriously especially Zimbabweans they should stop fooling themselves by not telling the truth.We are looking for the best decisions from them not to cheat us.

chimwango - 13 August 2013

These bloody dictators in the AU and some in SADC want allies and that is the reason they don't want to condemn stolen elections. Remember if you live in a house of glass you must not throw stones. Theirs is actual of bottles!

Regalia - 13 August 2013

The African Observers are just wasting taxpayers' hard earned money by parroting the usual-they have no morals coz they have condemned Zimbabweans to eternal death as they have sanitised the dictatorship of the an ruling party inspite of glaring inadequacies. How can they declare the elections free and fair when the voters' roll is full of ghost voters? Cry the beloved country. All we have to do is to leave everything to the Almighty.

Chief Philip Charumbira - 13 August 2013

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