In a surprising move, Zimbabwe’s President Emmerson Mnangagwa has extended an invitation to regional, continental, and international bodies to observe the upcoming general elections scheduled for August 23. This announcement comes as Mnangagwa claims that he has nothing to hide and has implemented measures to ensure violence-free, transparent, and credible elections. However, critics argue that Mnangagwa’s sincerity in making such claims is questionable, particularly considering his involvement in the events of the 2018 election.
During the 2018 poll, Mnangagwa orchestrated a coup that involved the deployment of soldiers to intimidate and shoot at electoral commissioners on August 1. This incident was widely condemned as a violation of democratic principles and resulted in the loss of innocent lives. Given this history, doubts linger regarding Mnangagwa’s true commitment to a genuinely fair and transparent electoral process.
Soldiers beat a supporter of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change party of Nelson Chamisa outside the party’s headquarters as they await the results of the general elections in Harare, Zimbabwe, August 1, 2018. REUTERS/Mike Hutchings TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY – RC19D00FA760.
Soldiers shooting civilians indiscriminately on 1 Aug 2018, on Emmerson Mnangagwa’s orders in order to change the election results, as fully announced by his advisor Christopher Mutsvangwa in a televised 15 Dec 2017 address
The government’s decision to invite international observers, including the African Union (AU), Southern African Development Community (SADC), Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA), and the Commonwealth, aims to project an image of openness and cooperation. Additionally, the European Union (EU) has warmly welcomed the invitation, signaling a potential shift in relations between Zimbabwe and the EU.
EU Ambassador to Zimbabwe, Jobst Von Kirchmann, expressed the bloc’s approval of the invitation, stating that it demonstrated the trust, cooperation, and partnership between Zimbabwe and the EU. While this endorsement may appear positive on the surface, it is crucial to consider the EU’s previous stance on Zimbabwe and its history of demanding credible democratic processes.
Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) vice chairperson, Ambassador Rodney Kiwa, defended the invitation, highlighting that it signifies the country’s commitment to holding free, fair, and credible elections. According to Kiwa, the invitation reflects Zimbabwe’s preparedness and transparency in conducting the upcoming election. He also noted that over 50 local individuals and institutions have expressed interest in observing the polls.
However, critics argue that the invitation alone does not guarantee a genuinely transparent and violence-free election. The presence of observers does not address the systemic issues and potential biases that could undermine the credibility of the electoral process. The true test lies in whether the government and the electoral commission will ensure impartiality, protect citizens’ rights, and provide a level playing field for all political parties.
It is worth noting that the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission has set specific fees for observer applications, which could potentially limit the participation of certain organizations or individuals. Charging fees may deter independent or smaller groups from engaging in the observation process, thereby limiting the diversity of perspectives and potentially compromising the credibility of the observers’ assessments.
As the deadline for observer applications approaches, the Zimbabwean public and the international community will closely monitor the actions of the government and the electoral commission. It is crucial that both entities demonstrate genuine commitment to transparency, impartiality, and the protection of democratic principles to dispel concerns about the sincerity of the invitation extended by President Mnangagwa.
Only time will tell whether these elections truly mark a turning point for Zimbabwe’s democratic journey or merely serve as a facade to regain international recognition. The international community, particularly the invited observer bodies, must remain vigilant and hold the Zimbabwean government accountable for its promises of a violence-free, transparent, and credible electoral process.