Dictators can be removed democratically

HARARE - Recent victories in Gambia and Ghana by opposition political party leaders Adama Barrow and Nana Akufo-Addo respectively show that the winds of change are blowing in Africa.

The Daily News spoke to analysts on how significant this development is to African politics and more so lessons for Zimbabweans and the opposition political poarties.

Political commentator Mcdonald Lewanika said there are always lessons to be learnt as long as one also accepts the variations in contexts.

“On one hand Ghana is arguably one the most developed in terms of democratic culture on the African continent, and has been characterised by power alternation between parties for a while now.

“The winner in Ghana Nana Akufo Addo is a seasoned politician who was once a losing candidate on a ruling party ticket who accepted defeat at the hands of opposition. So in terms of democracy we can marvel at Ghana and see and hopefully learn good practice.”

He said the opposition can generally also learn that defeats are not the end of the road, if they stay true and show the people an alternative vision people can reward them with election.

“But as I said the contexts are different and Zimbabwe is at a different political conjuncture to both Ghana and Gambia.

“From Gambia, the obvious lesson is how a powerful Incumbent can be overcome by a united opposition, but we also learn that sometimes it's not enough to win the vote and that transfer of power remains a challenge on the continent as Zimbabwe itself learnt from its own experience in 2008.

“So the opposition whether united or in its singular forms needs to have a multi-level strategy that ensures that they have both the ground game for mobilizing voter turn-out, have the technical competence to spot and stop electoral fraud and have the maturity, good sense and strategic thinking that assures their opponents that a transition of power to them is not a declaration of war against the ancient regime.”

He added that without thinking through all these steps and levels elections can be won but power can continue to be elusive.

“Although good democratic practice entails that power should be transferred to winners and the will of the people respected the real politics of our winner takes all processes entails greater finesse and strategy in managing transitions otherwise we will be caught up in endless power struggles with incumbents refusing to accept defeats not because they genuinely believe they haven't lost but because they are afraid of the consequences of the loss.

“So we are reminded of those lessons in real Politics from The Gambia, which in this case is also our good example of a bad example, and Ghana which is our good example of a good example - but always bearing in mind that there is variation in contexts and that political outcomes are both multi-causal and also dynamic depending on the prevailing political conjuncture,” said Lewanika.

Political analyst Maxwell Saungweme said these wins signal winds of change. “African people are demanding change and these victories show that long serving presidents can be removed from power democratically.

“However, different African countries face different political conditions. Zimbabweans have been demanding change since 2000. Arguably in all national polls since then the opposition, MDC, won but the will of the people was stolen by fraudulent electoral practices.”

Saungweme said the year 2008 was telling but people were killed, maimed and brutalised for voting out Mugabe and Zanu PF in spite of many cases of rigging.

“While Gambia and Ghana can bring some hope of change in Zimbabwe, the ball is in the court of the opposition and the voters.

“The opposition leaders need to ditch their egos and coalesce and field one candidate and mobilise people to come out to vote in numbers and put in place measures to ensure that the people's vote won't be stolen again.

“So we need an organised opposition and a vigilant electorate otherwise Gambia and Ghana will remain a political mirage for Zimbabwe.”

Political activist Tabani Moyo said: “The vintage position is that the opposition should unite or perish. If they are serious about the power retention, then they shall structure and organize themselves towards the attainment of the broader objective of serving and saving Zimbabwe. “On the Ghana part, effective organisation leads to regime change through the ballot and that mature democracies, ruling parties can become opposition peacefully - no chopping of hands and other violent interventions.

“On the part of the Gambian experience, dictatorships do not easily vacate office but must be pressurized to respect the people's popular verdict.”

Morgan Tsvangirai’s spokesperson Luke Tamborinyoka said: “The fundamental lesson is that political change is always possible. Nana Kuffour ado contested three times and he has finally won the election.

“The winds of change are blowing in Africa when you have opposition parties sweeping to power. Congratulations to the incumbents who conceded to defeat, particularly in Ghana.

“The sitting government did not suppress results for five weeks and we did not hear of delayed results because of ‘meticulous verification.’ There is hope yet for Africa.”

Media practitioner Nigel Nyamutumbu said the recent wins by opposition political parties in the Gambian and Ghanaian elections are useful barometers to assess Africa's commitment in fostering democracy in the respective states.

“Whereas the trend in Africa has been to protect the interests of ruling parties on the basis of historical strategic solidarity, the changing scripts in Gambia and Ghana will place Africa's response on the spotlight.

“The obvious dilemma that Africa will have to contend with pertains to whether the continent will out rightly respect the wishes of the majority of voters in these two countries or succumb to pressure and seek for compromises in the name of peace.

“Zimbabwe's opposition political parties could draw lessons on how the diaspora can influence elections and find mechanisms to effectively coordinate and mobilize their support,” said Nyamutumbu.

ZimRights director Okay Machisa said: “Ghana is a role model of democracy in Africa. Unfortunately Zimbabwe is quite far from achieving such high standards of tolerance.

“In fact Gambia has just confirmed what dictatorship is all about in many African countries by having its former president refusing to step down.

“My prayer is that the security sector in Gambia remains neutral and doesn’t interfere or influence the process.

“Zimbabwe has a crop of leaders who think democracy is permanent ruling of a political party. Time will tell. For Zimbabwe democracy shall come with a price. Zimbabweans themselves need to bring democracy legally and constitutionally,” said Machisa.

Social commentator Rashweat Mukundu said: “With a concerted mobilisation of citizens it's possible to beat ruling parties no matters how entrenched. The persistence in Ghana and unity of opposition in Gambia shows that sacrifice and egos must go before victory.”

Mining activist Farai Maguwu said: “There are lessons for both the opposition and the ruling party. For the opposition we learn that unity is important and that it’s important to rise above petty party interests to the bigger national interest.

“To Zanu PF the lesson is that the biggest contribution to peace and prosperity a ruling party can ever give to the people is to accept election results even if they didn't go your way.”

MDC spokesperson Obert Gutu said this shows and indeed, proves that an organised and well-resourced opposition can win free and fair elections, even here in Africa.

“What we must now push for is an electoral playing field that allows the holding of credible, free and fair elections. Anything short of that will simply not suffice.

“Zanu PF is a mafia organisation and to expect them to even up the electoral playing field without a serious and concerted push for electoral reforms will be tantamount to day - dreaming.

“We should push for electoral reforms relentlessly. Power will never be given to us on a silver platter. That won't happen. There's no gain without pain. That's the nature of African politics; especially under a brutal and corrupt dictatorship such as the Zanu PF regime,” said Gutu.

Comments (1)

Democracy need to b also embraced at party level for n political part to b n credible organisation.Keeping one man at the helm -gd examples of Tsvangirai&Mugabe does not show it can translate to democracy easily

Addmore Gudo - 16 December 2016

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