The first round of the presidential election, to include parliamentary and local government elections, will be held on 30 July. If there is no presidential candidate that is able attain 50 percent plus one vote, the second round is planned for 8 September 2018. This article tries to examine some of the internal or external factors that may affect the outcome.
The real challenge is between ruling Zimbabwe African National Union Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF) whose candidate is incumbent President Emmerson Mnangagwa and opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) Alliance; a grouping of seven political parties. The biggest unknown is how many of the other 21 candidates will split votes in the first round. Pan-African research organization, Afrobarometer, recently projected ZANU-PF support at 42 percent of the votes against MDC alliance’s 31 percent. This effectively means that there would be 27 percent of votes that may go to the other candidates. If Afrobarometer’s prediction is to come true, the presidential election will be heading for a second round.
External partners that may influence elections
SADC: The Southern Africa Development Community (SADC), the regional grouping of 16 nations, including Zimbabwe, can exert great influence. It is the first port of call in endorsing the outcome of the elections before other international partners can generally accept the outcome.
African Union (AU): The African Continent grouping of 53 nations (excluding Morocco which recently applied for re-admission) has much more weight when it comes to endorsement of the outcome of the elections results. SADC observers’ mission through member states will generally end up speaking through the AU and its final determination as a gathering of African states is recognized internationally.
Britain: It will exert a lot of influence considering that it is the former colonizer and is keen on re-engagement with Zimbabwe as its involvement has been stalled for the past 18 years because of the accelerated land reform program initiated by ZANU-PF. The central issue of the quarrel is around who should compensate the whites whose land was taken for resettlement of indigenous people. Britain’s Margaret Thatcher had agreed to honor the Lancaster House agreement that brought independence to Zimbabwe where a verbal agreement was made by Britain and United States to compensate white farmers for land taken by government for re-settlement.
When Tony Blair labor government came into power in the late 90’s, Britain reneged on the agreement made with the previous government. Zimbabwe’s government insists that it will only compensate on improvements made on the farms and not for the land which it argues was forcibly taken from their forefathers by the British settlers led by Cecil Rhodes. This bilateral disagreement with Britain resulted in gross human rights violations exacerbated the ZANU-PF instigated farm invasions and eventual turbulent election cycles.
The United States led the international community by enacting the Zimbabwe Economic Recovery and Democracy Act (ZIDERA) that has produced a host of sanctions that include making it an offense for American companies to do business with Zimbabwe and travel restrictions for senior ZANU-PF officials. The European Union also imposed similar measures although there has been a relaxation of the terms in recent years. For the first time in 16 years the EU and United States based National Democratic Institute (NDI) and International Republican Institute (IRI) will be observing the 30 July harmonized elections with the EU already having deployed 44 long term observers.
Individual bordering countries
Neighboring countries are observing the upcoming harmonized elections and in particular the presidential election with keen interest. Zimbabwe has an unofficial estimate of 3 million citizens in South Africa and more in Botswana, Namibia, Zambia and Mozambique among other countries.
South Africa mediated during the 2008 harmonized elections that left over 200 mainly opposition supporters dead and thousands more scurried for cover internally or in neighboring countries. The mediation resulted in a Government of National Unity (GNU) that was in place 2009-2013. ZANU-PF was led by former president Robert Mugabe whilst MDC-T was led by the late Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai. It is felt that the stability of Southern African cannot be accomplished without free, fair and credible elections in Zimbabwe.
The international community
The international community like both SADC and AU are primarily concerned with free, fair and credible elections. If Zimbabwe undergoes a similar crisis as was witnessed in the 2008 disputed presidential elections, this could result in unwelcome repercussions for the whole region and Africa as a whole. Therefore Zimbabwe has an obligation to ensure that they conduct harmonized elections that are seen by local and international observers as free, free and credible.
In conclusion, it is interesting to note that the Zimbabwean general elections are being fought on bread and butter issues, notably: job creation, infrastructure development, revamping the education and health delivery sectors and the promise of fighting the scourge of corruption that Transparency International Zimbabwe in 2016 noted is fleecing the government of up to US $1 billion annually. What holds true at the moment is that whichever party wins, there is a long and winding road ahead in rebuilding the country which has been stagnant since the early 2000’s.