PRESIDENT Emmerson Mnangagwa’s authoritarian hand was laid bare this week when globally acclaimed figures who command international respect were deported from Harare to keep them away from witnessing the elections predicted to be a sham. Several other perceived local critics were stopped from being observers by the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission.
On Tuesday, Zimbabwean authorities deported well-known and well-travelled British academic Stephen Chan, a professor of world politics at the University of London.
After his deportation Chan, a New Zealand-born British academic who was an international civil servant with the Commonwealth secretariat and who observed Zimbabwe’s first democratic elections in 1980, said: “Yes, I was deported on arrival in Zimbabwe. The insurgency story was clearly a cover. They just don’t want people to see an election that is not fully proper.”
A few days before that development, Zimbabwe-born South African public policy analyst and strategic communication expert, Chris Maroleng, had also been subjected to a North Korean-style deportation with his colleagues.
Maroleng is currently international chief executive of Good Governance Africa. Good Governance Africa is a South African-based research and advocacy non-profit organisation with centres across the continent focusing solely on improving governance across Africa.
On Tuesday and a day before the polls, 30 of the Carter Center’s 48 short-term observers complained that they had not received accreditation from Zimbabwean authorities. The Carter Center has an international reputation for providing impartial, constructive election observation.
The organisation complained that the delay in accreditation was unprecedented in its 30-plus years of observing elections across the globe.
On the other hand, close to 10 people, who had submitted applications to ZEC to observe the general elections held on Wednesday had their applications rejected by ZEC, which in some cases cited undisclosed “security reasons” for arriving at such an arbitrary decision.
Among those barred from observing the general elections were clergyman Bishop Ancelimo Magaya, human rights lawyers Musa Kika and Arnold Tsunga, pro-democracy campaigners, Tapiwanashe Chiriga, Rashid Mahiya, Blessing Vava, Rachel Kadau and Dephin Magaya.
While Magaya, Kika, Tsunga, Chiriga, Mahiya, Vava, Kadau, Magaya were awaiting to be accredited by ZEC to observe elections, their representatives who made enquiries with the elections management body, were told that their applications had been rejected with no reasons being given.
Chan is a scholar of African politics at SOAS University of London’s Department of Politics and International Studies, Centre for Global Media and Communications, and Centre of African Studies.
His research interests span multiple areas and disciplines centres on the political thought and practice in Africa. For years, he has taught African Political Thought, Political Thought on the Just Rebellion, Religion and World Politics, and Politics of Africa.
The state-controlled media alleged that Chan, who was previously associated with Zimbabwean opposition politics, was in the country to help main opposition CCC leader Nelson Chamisa in his election strategy and plot an insurgency against President Emmerson Mnangagwa. Labelling him a “rabid government critic”, the state-controlled daily Herald also claimed Chan was in Zimbabwe to “trigger mayhem”.
The Herald, which usually reflects the official voice, alleged Chan was in Harare to plot a revolt if the opposition loses, not to train martial arts as he stated on arrival. The Herald accused Chan of being a Chamisa adviser and a subversive infiltrator who was in the country to train political insurgents to incite a revolt after voting on Wednesday.
It said Chan had arrived in the country under a visa pretext to train karate, a martial arts discipline, within Zimbabwe.
The Herald alleged that he failed to adhere to necessary regulations and fees stipulated by the Sports and Recreation Commission. In a statement the Carter Centre bemoaned denial of accreditation of its observers.
“Any further delay in accreditation will prevent the Center from deploying these observers and will hinder its ability to observe polling, counting, and tabulation in many locations. Furthermore, false and hostile comments about the Center and its work continue to be published in local and regional media. These attacks endanger Carter Center observers. We urge Zimbabwean authorities to publicly reiterate its welcome of The Carter Center and ensure the safety of its observers and staff,” reads the statement.
Following an invitation from the Zimbabwean government, the Carter Center had already dispatched its team to observe the elections.
Attahiru Muhammadu Jession of Nigeria, was leading the mission. The Carter Center has since 1989, observed more than 110 elections in 40 countries, including the United States. The organisation says it conducts its missions in accordance with the 2005 Declaration of Principles for International Election Observation.
It further says its assessment and analysis of elections are based on regional and international human rights obligations and standards for democratic elections, including the SADC Principles and Guidelines and the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance.
Morelang lambasted the government over his deportation. In a scathing attack on Mnangagwa’s administration, posted on his Twitter handle, Maroleng said: “The recent events that unfolded in Zimbabwe, leading to my abrupt deportation, are not just a reflection of bad governance, but a stark indication of the lengths to which the government will go.”
He said they had followed all protocol and decried the clamp down on civilian rights. “This is a call for the people of Zimbabwe to rise up against tyranny and demand the change they so desperately deserve.
Our purpose in Zimbabwe was noble and clear – to conduct vital field research on election conditions and challenges,” he said.
“ We followed all the necessary protocols, but what awaited us was a shocking and horrifying ordeal. It served as a brutal reminder of the bullying tactics employed by the Zanu PF-led government, as they seek to stifle dissent and silence any voices that dare to challenge their autocratic rule.”
Moraleng called upon Zimbabweans to vote out the Mnangagwa regime for its brazen governance failures and autocracy.
“This is not an isolated incident; it is a clear indication of the extent to which the government will go to suppress the truth and maintain their grip on power.
“We cannot afford to be silent in the face of such tyranny. This incident is a wake-up call for all Zimbabweans to rise up against the oppressive forces that seek to undermine their democratic rights and aspirations. We must channel our anger into action, demanding accountability!” he seethed with anger.