Tuesday, 15 April 2008

Zimbabwe - the current situation

Since my last post about the problems in Zimbabwe, there has been even more developments - most of them are worrying. There has been increasing pressure on the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission and even more comment from the international community as well as further involvement from South Africa.

The ZEC and the results
The results of the presidential part of the Zimbabwean elections have not been announced yet and the Movement for Democratic Change (the opposition party led by Morgan Tsvangirai) has gone through the courts to get this information released.

The decision in the court case was recently revealed in the state-owned newspaper, The Herald:
"HIGH Court judge Justice Tendayi Uchena yesterday dismissed with costs an application by MDC-T seeking an order compelling the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission to announce results of the presidential election"
This can only be seen as an unfortunate result for the MDC. Later on in that article, it's reported that a spokesman for the ZEC mentioned that it was up to them when the results should be released. That same spokesman also said that the "integrity" of the ZEC should not be questioned and that "trying to interfere with the independence of ZEC would create problems in future".

The Constitution
It's interesting that he used the word independence in his statement. Let's examine that. The following is from the Constitution of Zimbabwe, which was created in the year that Mugabe took power:
"1. There shall be a commission to be known as the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission which shall consist of:
a. a chairman who shall be a judge of the High Court or the Supreme Court or a person qualified to be appointed as a judge of the High Court or the Supreme Court appointed by the President after consultation with the Judicial Service Commission

b. six other members, at least three of whom shall be women, appointed by the President from a list of nine nominees submitted by the Committee on Standing Rules and Orders.
2. If the appointment of a chairman of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission is not consistent with any recommendation of the Judicial Service Commission in terms of subsection (1)(a), the President shall cause Parliament to be informed as soon as practicable."
This basically states that the chairman and all other members of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission are appointed by the President (Mugabe). It also states that he must consult with the judicial branch when appointing the chair, but (according to section 84 of the constitution), Mugabe also selects the judges. These facts mean that the ZEC can't possibly be independent. If you read the full article in the state-owned The Herald, you'll notice that this issue isn't raised - Mugabe wouldn't want the population knowing all the facts.

Thabo Mbeki and the SADC
The Southern African Development Community has enlisted the South African President, Thabo Mbeki, as the person who will mediate with them and Zimbabwe. At the moment, Mbeki feels that there is no crisis in that country:
"There is no crisis in Zimbabwe....The body authorised to release the results is the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission, let's wait for them to announce the results,"
What the South African leader fails to understand is that even though the ZEC are the group that release the results, they are not independent. Theoretically, Mugabe could influence them so that they delay the announcment for several months.

Another indication that Mbeki is out of touch his own party, the ANC, disagreeing with him:
"The ANC regards the (Zimbabwe) ruling party ZANU-PF as an ally. However it is concerned with the state of crisis that Zimbabwe is in and perceives this as negative for the entire SADC region"
Oh dear - was he really the right choice for mediation and diplomatic duties in this situation?

A strike
The MDC stated that there should be a general strike (in the form of a 'stay-in'). They felt that it would force the ZEC into releasing the results. A lot of citizens ignored this as they simply cannot afford a strike and the unemployment rate is 80%, so people have questioned whether it would make a difference. I feel that any strike at this stage would be a bad move for the MDC. Doing nothing would give Mugabe more time and it's unlikely that the ZEC would be influenced anyway.

The following is from this article:
"Government spokesman Bright Matonga said the only violence in Zimbabwe was by the opposition MDC party, which he said had "sent their youth to burn down property."
This was said in response to the MDC's accusations of intimidation and suggestion that Mugabe uses youth militias. What Zanu-PF (the current ruling party) fail to point out is that their supporters have been clearly violent and in one reported case, they have even killed an MDC supporter. The Zimbabwe police claim that the violence isn't political, but that is ridiculous. However, I guess the police were forced to say that as they are run by the government.

David Miliband and the UN Charter
The UK's Foreign Secretary recently stated that "The international community, given the consequences of the situation there, has a responsibility also to engage with the issues". I'm pleased to see that this stance has been adopted. Non-military action by external countries is the way forward in this situation. In my previous blog post I stated that no country has the right to intervene by using force.

Morgan Tsvangirai recently called for the intervention of the UN and other countries, but it's important to remember that the UN or it's members cannot take military action as it's only a domestic issue. If Mugabe is re-elected, it would not e.g. greatly affect the economic status of all the other nations. If military action was taken right now, the Charter of the United Nations would be broken (in several places).

For instance, point 1 of Article 1 states that the UN should maintain international peace and security. Starting a war would be the exact opposite of that (anyone remember Iraq?). Point 4 of Article 2 states that:
"All Members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state"
Only using military force in international situations is also mentioned in articles 41 and 42.

Conclusion and Summary
The biased Zibabwe Electoral Commission is delaying the results and isn't stating when they will be released. The result of a court case means that there is no progress. The MDC is (worryingly) making some questionable decisions such as proposing a strike, but fortunately nothing happened with that. The international community can do nothing but continue to impose sanctions. Alongside that, it seems that violence is increasing dramatically and it only improves the chances of Mugabe being re-elected. However, as he has lost the parliamentary election, how much power would he have?

So, what do you think?

Technorati tags: Zimbabwe, Robert Mugabe, Election, Government