ZIMBABWEAN President Emmerson Mnangagwa has incredibly told the whole world at the 78th Session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) in New York, United States, that the country’s recent disputed elections were “free, fair, transparent and credible”.
However, the elections have been widely rejected by the opposition, civil society and a wide section of Zimbabweans as shambolic and a sham.
Even the Southern African Development Community Election Observer Mission (SEOM) rejected the polls for the first time in decades, saying they did not meet the benchmarks of Zimbabwe’s constitution, electoral law and the Sadc Principles and Guidelines Governing Democratic Elections.
“The Mission observed that the pre-election and voting phases, on 23-24 August 2023 harmonised elections were peaceful, and calm. However, the Mission noted that some aspects of the Harmonised Elections, fell short of the requirements of the Constitution of Zimbabwe, the Electoral Act, and the SADC Principles and Guidelines Governing Democratic Elections (2021).
“The mission was informed that the delimitation exercise that was conducted in 2022 wasmarred with controversy. In one way or another, concerned stakeholders claimed that the reportthat Zec submitted failed to observe the constitutional requirements for such an exercise, andthat there were divisions amongst serving commissioners of the Zec regarding the veracity ofthe report,” read the preliminary report presented by Sadc SEOM head Nevers Mumba in Harare this week.
“The main allegations made against the report was that it constituted gerrymandering, and that itfailed to observe the correct methodology for calculating the 20% variance constitutional rule with respect to minimum and maximum sizes of the 210 constituencies. The courts dismissed legal challenges brought against the delimitation report of 2022.”
However, this week Mnangagwa said the electoral process was smooth, contrary to observations by key missions, including the Commonweath, Carter Centre and the European Union Electoral Observer Mission (EUEOM).
“Zimbabwe continues to entrench democracy, constitutionalism and the rule of law, following the recently held 2023 harmonised elections. I am pleased to highlight that our country enjoyed peace before, during and after our free, fair, transparent and credible elections,” he told the UNGA this week.
Mnangagwa has been at pains to sanitise the polls, whose credibility was undermined by undemocratic practices and logistical challenges, which saw voting at some polling stations, particularly in opposition stringholds in Harare and Bulawayo beginning deep in the night instead of the stipulated 7am, leaving the election tainted.
The polls were seen as crucial for Zimbabwe’s bid to end international diplomatic isolation. With a tainted human rights right record, the Zanu PF government has been resorting to hiring lobbyists to improve its image globally while seeking to invite goodwill.
Ironically, after the announcement of results only a handful world leaders congratulated him, with 13 out of 16 Sadc leaders snubbing the event.
South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, who has been one of the few leaders fighting in Mnangagwa’s corner, told the UN that the Sadc report has not yet been finalised and it does not invalidate the elections, but merely points out flaws in the electoral process for improvement.
Ramaphosa demanded the lifting of sanctions on Zimbabwe, which is reeling from political and economic problems due to leadership, governance and policy failures.
Effects splintering from the disputed election have also seen the European Union (EU) suspending US$5 million in funding to the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) and the ministry of Finance and Investment Promotion altogether.
In December 2022, the EU had officially entered into the ZIM-ECO2 project with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), providing a total contribution of US$4.7 million, of which approximately 1 million euros have been spent, following the signing of the Financing Agreement with the Ministry of Finance in November 2022.
The bloc’s observer mission also flagged Zimbabwe’s polls in its preliminary report on 25 August, saying that curtailed rights and lack of a level playing field led to an environment that was not always conducive to voters making a free and informed choice.
“The EU deplores the extensive and sustained disinformation and defamation campaign waged against the European Union Election Observer Mission (EU EOM) and other international observer organisations, the lack of access to key electoral bodies as well as the unjustified arrests of citizen observers,” said Josep Borell, the EU’s high representative, on Zimbabwe’s elections.
“The EU encourages the Zec to exercise maximum transparency in the process of results tabulation, including disaggregated election results by polling station and the judiciary in adjudicating all post-electoral complaints and grievances. Ongoing disputes and any remaining concerns about this electoral process should be resolved peacefully through existing legal mechanisms.”
This week, former South African leader Thabo Mbeki has urged Mnangagwa to think in the best interests of the people, as part of bringing a solution to the electoral crisis.
“After the 2008 elections which were very disputed, and the second round of the elections marked by violence. After that, the Zimbabwe parties agreed that the only way to respond to this reality is that they should must together and firm a Government of National Unity (GNU). It was a response to what had happened during the elections,” he said in an interview with South African Broadcasting Corporation on the sidelines of the UNGA summit.
“As I have said, I was directly involved in those processes then, but I have not been now. In 2008 when the Zimbabweans themselves could see that the election could not produce a winner, the best thing to do is to sit and what we can do together.”
Citing himself as an example after he did not resist removal as president of the African National Congress (ANC) in 2008, Mbeki said Mnangagwa should think in the best interests Zimbabweans.
“And that kind of approach, if one says I am a leader of the people of South Africa. What must inspire you is not my position as ANC president or president of the republic, when I had to leave in 2008. It was to say, ‘what is the best interest of the country’? The decision of the ANC was wrong and I said so publicly. They pitched themselves on a wrong opinion expressed by a judge in the Supreme Court of Appeal, and the SCA rebuked the judge and said he should have never said things like that. I knew that.
“But in the interests of what happens to South Africa, I thought it was best to say let’s go along with this wrong decision, because to have said ‘No’, to say ‘I’m not going,’ would have created an enormous crisis.
“I am just saying that because I think people are holding on to political positions. I represent and lead South Africa, I must act as a leader. Same as the leaders of the people of Zimbabwe. What is in the best interests of the people of Zimbabwe? That is how I would have tackled the matter,” Mbeki said.
Mnangagwa has also come under scrutiny after he told the UNGA meeting on Pandemic Prevention, Preparedness and Response that the Zimbabwean government has been increasing budgetary spending in the health sector, which is contrary to what has been obtaining since the Covid-19 pandemic erupted in December 2019.
“Your Excellences. I urge us to make bold decisions that respond to present realities including the development or the pandemic treaty drawing lessons from the pandemics faced so far. Issues of the equitable distribution of resources to ensure equity in technologies like vaccines personal protective equipment (PPE) information, expertise and access to healthcare for all during pandemics need our honest consideration,” Mnangagwa said.
“There is clearly a need for stronger action, governance, financing health systems to protect the world from future pandemics.
“As Zimbabwe, my government has deliberately and continued to increase budgetary allocations to health service delivery. I implore us to remain alive to the importance of robust monitoring mechanisms for pandemic prevention, preparedness in response for breaking the recycling circle of pandemic panic and neglect.”
A glance at previous statistics shows that Zimbabwe’s spending in the health sector has been falling below the international target of 15% set by African countries via the Abuja Declaration.
For instance, Zimbabwe’s health budget allocation for 2023 was 11%, falling from 14.9% (ZW$117 billion) which had been allocated in 2022. The allocation was even lower in 2021, being pegged at 13%.
According to the barometer by Sivio Institute published in August titled, Five Years of Progress or Stagnation, the Zanu PF government has failed to deliver in the social services cluster that includes pension systems and allocations, housing, health, education.
The government made nine promises in regards to pensions systems and allocation, with a performance of 49%, while making 15 promises in the health sector with a performance of 37%.
More promises were made in the education sector, with a performance of 47% while the lowest score was recorded in housing with a score of 36%.
For instance, while the Zanu PF government promised to build 78 new hospitals and least one new hospital per administrative district by 2023 to promote the health sector, it has only managed to build 13 new clinics.
“Under the Health sub-sector, two promises have been broken; (i) the review of the remuneration structure for medical professionals and (ii) ensure that the treasury allocates at least 15% of the national budget to health care (in line with the Abuja Declaration). The period under review has been characterised by a number of industrial actions, especially by nurses and doctors going on strike for improved conditions of service.
“Several nurses have taken advantage of opportunities in the UK to migrate there,” reads the barometer by the Sivio Institute.