Listening to a short but much thought provoking dialogue with a friend, we both couldn’t avoid bringing ethics into the subject. The discussion was centered on a highly sensitive subject among Gambians (people of my country). As usual, we changed the topic to a broader coverage almost applying it to the whole continent or (more accurately to countries without presidential term-limits). My friend told me that he believes that term limits for politicians especially for presidents could be a good way of improving governance as political figures will likely be more transparent if they know that their positions as president is not a permanent contract. If this is so, I told him that it both has tremendous chances of improving accountability but it does not also go without institutional challenges and political will to move on with such arrangements. Then we shifted our focus to a more recent example of our subject: elections in Zimbabwe!
In 2008, Zimbabweans like this 31st of July, 2013 went to the polls to elect their president and members of parliament. Both elections have been marred by controversy but the latter been more peaceful. Despite this fact, this 2013 election is also a subject of disagreement especially among the major opposition and some Western commentators. Some of them have reported that the election was set in a way to favor the ruling party and its aspiring candidates as members of parliament which was characterized by violence and wide intimidation of opposition figures and their supporters. Some sources have also reported that the election happened in an unorganized manner where the needed political and security reforms have not been initiated to support a free and fair election that gives equal opportunity to the participating parties and candidates.
In power since 1980 (as the only known leader of Zimbabwe after gaining independence from Britain), some commentators both within and outside Africa criticize Mugabe as power-hungry even though his ‘iron fist’ ruling has led to economic decline, increased poverty and widespread unemployment. Mugabe and his regime have been accused of corruption at the expense of the poor masses. Due to allegations of widespread human rights abuse, the regime has faced isolation especially from Britain and by extension the EU thus increasing the pain of economic decline. In the past few years, however, there has been improvement on production and trade mainly from natural resources. Despite this, poverty is common existence and economic isolation is yet to be history especially among the poor who are less-connected to the regime.
True, Zimbabwe as a nation has gone through some political turmoil that has in no small way impact on the economy and living condition of the majority of the people. However, I wonder if some African countries will be able to improve the challenge of ‘good governance’ through limiting presidential terms (likely to two terms). With a report of the electoral body declaring Mugabe with a 61% of votes and a parliament victory of two-thirds for his ZANU-PF party, what will be the faith of the nation in the next five years may be too early to conclude. However, I believe that there should be key priorities of economic growth, eliminating corruption, improving the human rights situation and constitutional supremacy among other important agendas. Accept it or not, the results of this election has brought new amid continuing controversy against Mugabe as a ‘nationalist’ he has claimed to be or an official of the few elite against the interest of the poor majority.
As mentioned earlier, while some reporters claimed that the electoral process was more peaceful than the 2008 one, some have labeled it as ‘widely flawed’ and the main opposition declaring the results ‘null and void’. Against all odds, Mugabe is sworn in for the 7th time as the leader of Zimbabwe and shall reign for the next five years. At this crucial moment for the county’s political life, it is now time to work on national reconciliation and interest. Attracting investors and donor commitment for nation rebuilding should be high on the agenda of President Mugabe as the holder of Zimbabwe’s highest office for the next half a decade.