Zim elections: Lessons to be learnt for Africa

HARARE - The uneasy calm that has descended on Zimbabwe after a tense election — and even more tense vote results following allegations of electoral fraud — is to be welcomed.

Given the chaos and bloodshed that followed the previous poll, the fact that this one has been relatively peaceful, despite the delays and disputed outcome, is a step in the right direction.

The Southern African Development Community observer mission (SEOM) said in a final report yesterday that Zimbabwe’s disputed election on July 31 was “generally credible” but questioned the fairness of the vote.

Despite its mealy mouthed response, SEOM made important observations, although it tried to whitewash the poll as “credible.”

SEOM noted that the provision of the voters’ roll in time goes to the very heart of fairness in the election process, and that if the voters’ roll is not made available on time, the fairness of the election is brought into question.

And we agree with SEOM that voters’ rolls are public documents and it is the duty of electoral commissions to avail it to all contestants if there is nothing to hide.

Both President Robert Mugabe and his main challenger, Morgan Tsvangirai, have gone out of their way to avoid inflammatory rhetoric.

Mugabe’s public utterances have generally been conciliatory, and Tsvangirai has so far stuck to the legal and diplomatic process in his determination to challenge the “tainted” election result, rather than urging his supporters to take to the streets. 

Mugabe though has at times gone out of line by attacking Tsvangirai especially while delivering speeches at the Heroes Acre.

There is no tension and intimidation. It is important that the benefits of going by the book — and negative consequences of resorting to undemocratic ways — are broadcast far and wide.

There are lessons to be learnt from Zimbabwe by many other African countries.

An overwhelming majority can be whittled down through an election. 

Restraint is the best way to respond to elections. That is key to our future.

As far as Zimbabwe is concerned, disputed results of the presidential poll and the composition of the incoming government make for a difficult period ahead, even if the peace holds.

Of course, Mugabe’s position will be complicated whatever happens — both he and his cronies face continuing sanctions for allegedly stealing the vote, which will make governing difficult even if the stark divisions are excluded from the equation.

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