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Zimbabwe: Mnangagwa sworn in for second term after disputed election

Zimbabwe: Mnangagwa sworn in for second term after disputed election Zimbabwe: Mnangagwa sworn in for second term after disputed election
Zimbabwe: Mnangagwa sworn in for second term after disputed election

Zimbabwe, once again, finds itself failing the test of democracy as Emmerson Mnangagwa is sworn in for a second presidential term.

The country’s trajectory of disputed polls continues, posing significant challenges for economic recovery. The recent elections exposed widespread irregularities and a blatant disregard for the law and international voting standards.

Zimbabwe: Mnangagwa sworn in for second term after disputed election
Emmerson MnangagwaPhotographer: Jekesai Mjikizana/AFP/Getty Images

The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission, despite numerous observer missions pointing out multiple aberrations, declared Mnangagwa, the incumbent from the ruling Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front (Zanu-PF) party, the winner with 52.6% of the vote. The Citizens Coalition for Change, led by Nelson Chamisa, received 44% of the vote.

Unfortunately, disaggregated results are not available, and ZEC has claimed that it is under no obligation to make them public, disregarding international best practices. Although Zanu-PF fell short of a two-thirds majority in parliament, they still retained a comfortable majority with 136 seats. The CCC managed to increase the opposition seats in parliament to 73.

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Zimbabwe: Mnangagwa sworn in for second term after disputed election
Mnangagwa took the reins of power for another term in a colorful ceremony attended by thousands of Zimbabweans and regional leaders.

One concerning aspect was the speed at which ZEC announced the election results, potentially in an attempt to frustrate independent verification of the count. The CCC rejected the outcome but ultimately withdrew their intended Constitutional Court challenge. According to the party, the courts in Zimbabwe have been captured by Mnangagwa and Zanu-PF, making a court challenge a futile exercise that would only serve to legitimise Mnangagwa’s victory.

Drawing parallels to the discredited 2008 election and the hasty inauguration by Robert Mugabe, Mnangagwa’s rush to be inaugurated after a disputed election raises many questions. It highlights a troubling pattern of suppressing dissent and the quest for power consolidation.

The failure to hold free, fair, and credible elections in Zimbabwe undermines the country’s democratic principles and tarnishes its international reputation. It also raises concerns about the stability of the region, as a lack of genuine democracy can lead to political and social unrest.

SADC notes irregularities

Zimbabwe: Mnangagwa sworn in for second term after disputed election
Zimbabwe: Mnangagwa sworn in for second term after disputed election

SADC, the Southern African Development Community, recently released a preliminary report highlighting irregularities in the Zimbabwean elections. This is significant because SADC has traditionally been cautious in its observations and rarely speaks out against member states. In its report, the SADC Electoral Observation Mission (Seom) mentioned the alleged intimidation and compromise of the rural vote by a group called Forever Associates Zimbabwe. FAZ is said to be a quasi-security intelligence organisation, raising concerns about the legitimacy of the electoral process.

The report also criticised the Patriot Act for being incompatible with the Constitution and the SADC Principles and Guidelines Governing Democratic Elections. These principles emphasise the importance of upholding freedom of expression and ensuring a fair and transparent electoral process. The fact that the report explicitly mentioned these concerns suggests that there were clear violations of these principles during the Zimbabwean elections.

However, the response from the ruling party, Zanu-PF, and the government has been to dismiss and discredit the Seams findings. They have accused the mission of bias and launched a campaign to silence its criticism. This raises questions about the government’s commitment to democratic values and its willingness to address the concerns raised by international observers.

In addition to the SADC report, the African Union also expressed concerns about the Zimbabwean elections. However, unlike the SADC report, the AU’s report did not make any pronouncements on the irregularities but merely profiled the widespread concerns. This difference in approach raises further questions about the effectiveness and credibility of the AU’s election observation missions.

One of the most concerning incidents occurred at the start of vote counting when the government halted independent observation by local civil society organisations. The Zimbabwe Election Support Network and Election Resource Centre data centres were raided by the police, and staff members, as well as accredited local observers, were arrested. Laptops and cellphones were also confiscated. The government claims that it had intelligence suggesting that some organisations planned to illegally announce results based on their parallel vote tabulation.

Zimbabwe: Mnangagwa sworn in for second term after disputed election
Mnangagwa’s supporters cheer before his inauguration in Harare.

The election observer missions have criticised the recent polls for not meeting the minimum standards. The SEOM’s report was particularly harsh, pointing out numerous procedural and process deficiencies that contradict the Zimbabwean constitution, Electoral Act, and SADC’s Principles and Guidelines for Democratic Elections.

The SADC mission observed that the ZEC was unprepared despite their claim of being fully ready. Transparency issues were identified regarding the voters’ roll, the controversial delimitation report, unfair access to state media, voter intimidation, and deeper concerns related to party-state interests, judicial manipulation, and problematic legislation.

Although some of these issues have been mentioned in previous SADC reports on Zimbabwe’s elections over the past two decades, the focus on structural and systemic challenges marks a departure from the past. These concerns align with those frequently raised by opposition groups and civil society.

In response to these findings, Zanu-PF and the government launched attacks against the Seom report and its team leader Dr Nevers Mumba. Similar treatment was given to other observer missions, including personal attacks on the head of the European Union observer mission. The ruling party’s extreme reaction indicates that they considered the SADC mission’s findings to be significant and potentially damaging.


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