🔒 Premium from the FT – Democracy, once subverted, is hard to regain. Ask Zimbabwe.

In a fascinating discussion on Tuesday about the DA’s proposal to re-run Joburg’s 2021 election, Helen Zille explained it’s nothing unusual. When voters deliver an unworkable result for politicians, she said, it’s normal in democracies for them to be asked to cast their ballots once again.  

Not as usual, though, are re-runs because of widescale fraud. Because, especially on our continent, those perpetrating the fraud are normally the same who grip the levers of power. But, thankfully for Zimbabweans (and Joburgers), these are not usual times.

Yesterday, the Bongo family’s 56-year dynasty in Gabon was terminated after president Ali Bongo (64), who succeeded his father Omar 14 years ago, pushed his luck once too many times. Military officers seized power “in the name of the Gabonese people” after the electoral commission claimed Bongo had won a third term with 64% of the vote.

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This won’t have missed Zimbabweans, nor the SADC members who have seen an equally obtuse result being declared in Harare. To his credit, Cyril Ramaphosa hasn’t ‘done an Mbeki’ by giving credibility to another deeply flawed election in SA’s northern neighbour. He knows more Mnangagwa means more refugees streaming into his already creaking country.

The big test, though, is whether Pretoria supports the opposition’s call for a re-run (see below). This is not unprecedented. The first was by a Kenyan court in 2017. Closer to home, Malawi’s annulled 2019 election delivered a very different result in 2020 where opposition leader Lazarus Chakwera prevailed with 58% of the actual vote – compared with just 35% he was credited with in the flawed poll.

No rational thinker would bet against a Malawi-type similar turnaround in a properly monitored Zimbabwean election. The official result published last week had Mnangagwa at 52.6% and the opposition’s Nelson Chamisa at 44%.

– Alec Hogg


Zimbabwe opposition urges African neighbours to back election rerun

By Joseph Cotterill and Kudzanai Musengi of The Financial Times

FT reports that the call to international community reflects Mnangagwa rivals’ pessimism about securing new polls via the courts

Zimbabwe’s main opposition party has called on regional organisations to back new elections in the southern African nation as it rejected President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s poll victory as “fatally flawed”.

“There is no alternative but a new, clean, fresh election to let the people freely and equally decide who shall lead our country,” Gift Siziba, the Citizens Coalition for Change deputy spokesperson, told reporters on Tuesday.

Referring to the Southern African Development Community and African Union, he said: “Our answer to this Zimbabwean and African challenge lies in us calling upon our African and regional organisations . . . to facilitate, mediate, scaffold and guarantee a process.”

The call by the CCC, which is led by Nelson Chamisa, comes after international observers, including from the SADC, criticised voting delays and the unequal playing field in last week’s polls. Chamisa did not attend Tuesday’s briefing.

Mnangagwa won a second term with 52.6 per cent of the vote, versus 44 per cent for Chamisa, as the ruling Zanu-PF renewed its 43-year grip on power, according to official results released at the weekend.

The vote was marred by delays in delivering ballot papers to urban areas where the opposition is strongest, which led voting to be extended by a day.

The CCC has been compiling a parallel vote count based on polling-station returns. It has not yet released its calculations but has said irregularities, including alleged intimidation of voters in Zanu-PF rural strongholds, voided the poll.

“In effect there was no election in rural areas and there was gross voter suppression in urban areas,” Siziba said. “This was not an election but coercion.”

The call to the international community reflects opposition pessimism about securing a new election via Zimbabwe’s courts, which activists allege do the bidding of Zanu-PF, analysts say.

It also comes amid an unusually open dispute between the Mnangagwa government and the region’s election observers. Zimbabwe’s state media and government officials have accused the SADC delegation of bias towards the opposition after they said some aspects of the election fell short.

Paul Mangwana, a lawyer, Zanu-PF member and former co-chair of the commission that crafted Zimbabwe’s decade-old constitution, said anyone seeking fresh elections needed to go through the constitutional court within five days of the result. “There is no provision in our constitution where a losing party can call for fresh elections,” he said.

Leaders around the region have begun recognising Mnangagwa as the victor. Cyril Ramaphosa, president of South Africa, has congratulated the Zanu-PF leader. However, he said on Tuesday: “We are still going to sit down with other observers and analyse everything.”

The last time an election was rerun in southern Africa was in Malawi, after judges rejected Peter Mutharika’s 2019 victory in the country’s presidential race because of ballot fraud. The opposition’s Lazarus Chakwera won in new polls in 2020.

Malawi’s rerun was backed not only by its judiciary but also the country’s armed forces, which protected street protests calling for a new election.

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