THE 23 August general elections are likely to spook the region, with South Africa likely to bear the brunt of socio-economic decay, analyst Brian Kagoro has warned, amid indications the pre-election process has failed the integrity test.
Zimbabwe is headed for the polls against the backdrop of a refusal by the authorities to adopt comprehensive reforms. The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) has refused to avail an auditable voters’ roll to stakeholders, including opposition parties.
The election is coming at a time when Zimbabwe has been having frosty relations with South Africa, over Harare’s governance failures, which are at the heart of economic failure and repression.
For instance, simmering tensions between the two countries exploded in August last year after an outburst by a top provincial health official, Dr Phophi Ramathuba, who took a swipe at President Emmerson Mnangagwa over his leadership and governance failures, particularly in the health sector.
During the Robert Mugabe era that ended in 2017, South African leaders would dare not challenge the late Zanu PF leader directly as they regarded him a statesman. South Africa, the Sadc region’s largest economy (60% of the region’s GDP), has been harbouring an estimated three million Zimbabweans fleeing the spiraling socio-economic crisis.
The country’s economic growth has been blighted by subdued global demand, power outages, and devastating floods that affected industrial production, as well as corruption, policy inconsistency and bad governance.
Kagoro, a lawyer and public intellectual, this week said South Africa is likely to be heavily affected by a disputed election in Zimbabwe, while speaking in a Twitter Space with Hopewell Chin’ono and South African journalist Tim Modise.
“The implications for South Africa are much more fundamental than the flow of warm bodies across the border in order to seek greener pastures. South Africa as we speak has had a standoff with the Americans, that has led the Americans into taking a position or to start processes of taking a position towards its entitled-to tariff waivers under the Agoa Treaty.
“And South Africa’s economy is not in splendid health given the spectacular challenges with the energy crisis. And second, South Africa itself has not entered a stage of depression; it has entered the stage of stagnation.
“So, the South African economy depends on its regional neighbours. If its regional neighbours such as Zimbabwe, which is not a small trading partner, enters into a disability, South Africa is going to suffer from the domino effect,” Kagoro said.
He said South Africa’s ailing economy is likely to be affected by the region’s poor performers. The African Development Bank (AfDB) has predicted a decrease in southern Africa’s economy by 1.1 percentage points, from an estimated 2.7% in 2022 to 1.6% in 2023, largely owing to the continual weakness of South Africa, the region’s largest economy and trading partner.
“So, even if no single Zimbabwean had passed the South African border I think that it is in the interest of South Africa that their neighbours not only be stable, and I am talking about a neighborhood which has Mozambique which has experienced over the past years, significant strain against extremism in the north.
“We have Zambia which is trying to recover from a long period of significant difficulty, then we have Botswana. So South Africa is sitting in a neighbourhood that is beset by economic difficulty.
“But if you think about Zimbabwe specifically, the fundamental challenge is one of constitutionalism. The political elite rose into power impelled by the logic of one-party state rule, and has never adjusted to anyone from the polity having a right to compete against them. So, the response to opposition has always been acidic,” he said.