Sun. Jun 16th, 2024

In a Troubling Twist, Zimbabwe’s Democratic Foundation Shaken by Judicial Manipulation

Zimbabwe, a nation with a history of political turmoil, is once again facing a critical juncture as its upcoming general elections on August 23 take an alarming turn. The disqualification of 12 opposition parliamentary candidates in Bulawayo and independent presidential hopeful Saviour Kasukuwere has raised red flags about the erosion of democratic values and the rise of authoritarianism under President Emmerson Mnangagwa and his ruling party, Zanu PF. This unprecedented manipulation of the electoral process through politicised courts marks a distressing milestone in Zimbabwe’s journey towards a politically driven judiciary, potentially reinforcing Zanu PF’s dominance.

The core principles of Zimbabwe’s democracy are now in jeopardy as the nation grapples with a blatant assault on its electoral integrity. Zanu PF, renowned for its adept combination of persuasion and coercion, has consistently used both carrots and sticks to secure its electoral victories. From leveraging patronage and vote-buying to resorting to coercion, intimidation, and even violence, the party has maintained its grip on power since its ascent in 1980. The removal of longtime president Robert Mugabe in 2017, followed by Mnangagwa’s rise via a military coup, did little to alleviate concerns about the party’s authoritarian tendencies.

However, the recent disqualification of opposition candidates and an independent presidential hopeful exposes a deeply troubling dimension – the manipulation of the judiciary to serve the ruling party’s political agenda. The courts, once bastions of impartiality and justice, now appear to be succumbing to political pressure. This worrying trend, known as ‘partisan judicialisation,’ raises alarms about the judiciary’s independence and susceptibility to political manipulation.

President Mnangagwa’s decision in 2021 to extend Chief Justice Luke Malaba’s tenure by five years further deepens the growing unease. This move, clouded in controversy due to constitutional changes facilitating the extension, solidifies the intertwining of the judiciary with Zanu PF’s survival strategy. Such actions exemplify a system increasingly dominated by a juristocracy, exploiting judicial power to perpetuate and strengthen authoritarian rule.

Zimbabwe’s aspirations for democracy hang in the balance as the nation hovers on the brink of a full-fledged crisis. The international community, once optimistic about democratic progress, must recognize the urgency of the situation. As the country’s 43-year history under Zanu PF’s rule reveals, the party’s mastery of manipulation extends far beyond the polling stations.

The global community, alongside regional partners, must unite to address this troubling trajectory. Sanctions, diplomatic pressure, and targeted interventions can play a crucial role in urging Zimbabwe to recalibrate its democratic course. The people of Zimbabwe deserve a future that upholds their fundamental rights and ensures fair and free elections.

The disqualification of opposition candidates in Bulawayo and the independent presidential hopeful, orchestrated by politicised and captured courts, sheds light on Zimbabwe’s distressing journey towards partisan judicialisation and intensified authoritarianism. With the judiciary becoming complicit in power consolidation, President Mnangagwa and Zanu PF’s hold on the nation’s political landscape tightens. As Zimbabwe’s democratic institutions face unprecedented challenges, the global community must rally to steer the country back towards the path of genuine democracy and justice.

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