By Fungi Kwaramba
The United Kingdom House of Commons has said it was deeply concerned by lack of electoral reforms in preparations for Zimbabwe’s key 2018 general poll and called on the government to ensure the vote is peaceful, fair and credible.
Responding to a question from Jim Shannon, the shadow Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) spokesperson for Health and Transport on what the UK government was doing to ensure free and fair elections in Zimbabwe, Tobias Ellwood, the under-secretary for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs said Theresa May’s government had adopted a manifesto that included a “commitment to stand up for the rule of law and human rights in Zimbabwe”.
“Ahead of the 2018 elections, it is essential that reforms are made to the Zimbabwean electoral system, including strengthening the independence of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission and removal of unconstitutional legislation which restricts democratic activity and human rights.
“Officials remain in close contact with international partners, including the UN, to co-ordinate support in the run-up to the 2018 elections,” Ellwood said.
British Labour MP Kate Hoey asked Ellwood whether he is “aware of the deteriorating situation in Zimbabwe, economically and politically” and what “role can the British government play over the next six months or so, which will be crucial to the people of Zimbabwe”?
Ellwood said they have engaged the country’s neighbours to keep a watchful eye on the troubled country.
“…who knows what will happen in those six months, but we are working closely with the neighbouring countries to provide the necessary support for the people, who are suffering more than ever before under the current president’s regime,” Ellwood said.
This comes as Zimbabwe opposition parties are up in arms against the Zanu PF government following a contentious decision to go it alone in the securing of the critical biometric voter registration (BVR) kits and the sidelining of the United Nations’ Development Programme (UNDP), which many hoped would ensure transparency in the process.
Academic Pedzisai Ruhanya told the Daily News that the British have a minimal role to play in the country’s internal politics.
“The UK foreign policy is a total failure, especially on Zimbabwe and should not interfere in the affairs of a sovereign country such as Zimbabwe,” he said.
Buttressing Ruhanya’s views, political scientist Maxwell Saungweme said the country was a tinderbox.
“Zanu PF succession fights are a national and regional security early warning threat. The region must be worried about this. Sadc does have a role to play; mediation where required and dealing with the fallout if there is to be war or strife in Zimbabwe,” he said.
“That (President Robert) Mugabe has no succession plan is a very huge cause for concern. We know what happened in many countries in Africa where long-serving despots had no succession plans. Their reign ends in chaos with bloody civil wars ensuing. This is a reality we should fear in Zimbabwe,” Saungweme said.
Since last year, there have been allegations that the British are working on sprucing up the image of Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa, one of the leading contenders to succeed the ailing Mugabe, who turned 93 last month, but the Brits have rejected the accusations.
Asked specifically on what will happen in the next months given war veterans and other Zanu PF activists assumed position that Mugabe has to hand over power sooner rather than later, Ruhanya said it was clear the centre can no longer hold.
“Mugabe is no longer as powerful as he used to be. It is clear that there is a power vacuum, the current Mugabe is not the one of the 1990s, and while he has the legal power he has lost control of the vital State organs.
“While I said the UK cannot interfere in a sovereign country, Sadc has a role to play because Zimbabwe is signatory to its statutes on good governance. Sadc is the only body that can be listened to by Zanu PF,” said Ruhanya. Daily News