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Mnangagwa's chance to redeem legacy

12 Aug 2022 at 20:26hrs | Views
ZIMBABWE and Kenya have striking political dynamics. Even the political history in post2000 era has same characteristics of violence, disputed electoral outcomes, power sharing agreements and voter apathy. Kenya, which held its polls on Tuesday, attracted global attention as the 2007 post-election violence left over 1 200 dead and thousands injured. In 2008, Zimbabwe saw unprecedented violence as the state apparatus unleashed mayhem in the presidential election run-off.

Zimbabwe and Kenya during that period had inclusive governments formed by ruling parties and the opposition. One of the major outcomes of the coalition governments in both territories were new constitutions. But the East African economic giant with a gross domestic product (GDP) of about US$120 billion has socioeconomic and political differences with Zimbabwe whose GDP is about US$26 billion, according to the World Bank.

The demographics are different; Kenya has a population of close to 50 million, of which 22 million are registered voters whereas Zimbabwe, so far, has 5,8 million voters out of its 15 million population. Kenya's laws allow the diaspora vote with 10 444 having participated in the Tuesday plebiscite, according to the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC).

Although the diaspora vote is limited to 13 countries, what is essential is that Kenya enfranchised its people living abroad who can only vote for a president. The disenfranchisement of the diaspora population in Zimbabwe has been contentious. The International Migration Organisation
(IOM) Harare estimates that over four million Zimbabweans live in countries, such as South Africa, Botswana, Namibia, United Kingdom, the United States, Canada and Australia. It is an injustice for the government to continue disenfranchising the diaspora, which contributed US$1,4 billion in 2021. The largest out-of-country population is estimated to be living in South Africa, which accounts for 40% of remittances, according to Finmark.

Apart from Zimbabwe, other sub-Saharan countries also enjoy remittances with inflows standing at US$45 billion in 2021. This shows that there is a case for the diaspora vote. Currently, only officials on state duty enjoy voting rights. Like in the Kenyan scenario, those living abroad should be allowed to participate in elections, if government is serious about democratisation.

President Emmerson Mnangagwa has been posturing as a reformist. His predecessor the late Robert Mugabe blocked the out-of-country vote. Some individuals approached the courts in 2018 seeking universal suffrage for Zimbabweans in the diaspora. But the application was unsuccessful. This could be an opportunity for Mnangagwa to redeem his political legacy by enfranchising a significant portion of the population. The President has also presented himself as a revisionist. There was historical revisionism this week as Mnangagwa posthumously conferred national hero's status to liberation war nationalists and former Zanu leader Ndabaningi Sithole and James Chikerema.
This is an important correction of historical distortions by Mugabe who sought to trivialise the role of Sithole and Chikerema in the liberation struggle. Mnangagwa can do the same on the diaspora vote. He can implement this critical electoral reform as part of the amendments to the Electoral Act. This will help the President build a significant legacy. But this is an unlikely scenario. The vilification of Speaker of Parliament Jacob Mudenda by Zanu-PF hardliners after he suggested the diaspora vote is telling. The Zanu-PF government will not allow emigrant enfranchisement.
Zimbabwe should learn from the Kenyan external voting. It will, however, be unto Zimbabwe to conduct either personal voting at embassies and consulates or electronic voting (e-voting) using phones and computers.

Tuesday voting in Kenya was relatively peaceful, and as Zimbabwe goes to elections in 2023, there should be political tolerance. Government must stop using lawfare and deploying the state apparatus against dissent. Universal suffrage and equality are some of the major reasons why many laid down their lives in the liberation struggle.

Millennial dictatorship can no longer be entertained; Mugabe reduced Zimbabwe to a pariah through authoritarianism. The current rulers have a golden opportunity to make history by doing good. It is up to them to squander the chance as they have done in the past four years.

Source - the independent
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