Analysis: OLIVER NZALA
ON MONDAY July 30, 2018 Zimbabweans cast their votes in search of a new President other than Robert Mugabe. Millions turned out to vote with an average of 70 percent voter turnout in most polling stations with the hope that this is the beginning of better things to come, both politically and economically. Interestingly enough, the hopes and interests of Zimbabweans are not far from what her neighbours hope for it as well.
With results expected to be announced any day, Zambia is following the happenings in Zimbabwe with keen interest. These two countries do not only share boundaries but practically everything down to families.
The main rival candidates in the election: Emmerson Mnangagwa of the Zimbabwe African National Union – Patriotic Front (ZANU–PF) and Nelson Chamisa of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) present an opportunity for Zambia to further strengthen the two countries’ relations.
It is rousing when you think of Mnangagwa being the Zimbabwean President having been educated at Mumbwa Boarding School, Kafue Trades School and Hodgson Technical School College. This is a person who understands Zambia and has a good diplomatic relationship with President Edgar Lungu.
Energetic, charismatic, educated and on course to become Zimbabwe’s youngest President, Nelson Chamisa would equally be a perfect match for President Lungu because they share common ideals in their pursuit of national development.
Chamisa would present an opportunity for Zambia and Zimbabwe to share ideas on how best the developmental needs of the two countries can be synchronised in order to provide seamless boundaries that exhibit same developmental standards both in infrastructure and human development.
At the same time, in order to achieve all this, Zambia has keenly followed these elections bearing in mind that it does not wish for Zimbabwe to go back into the old political and economic melancholies.
This is also the wish of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and the rest of the world. Being the incoming chairperson of the SADC Organ for Politics, Defence and Security (OPDS) after this month’s SADC Summit of Heads of State and Government, President Edgar Lungu’s interest is to ensure that Zimbabwe moves on a path of democracy and respect for human rights so that the whole SADC region can enjoy the benefits of regional integration, and this can mostly happen when there is peace and security in the region.
It is unlikely that one candidate will get over 50 percent to emerge victorious. Therefore, the possibility of a run-off on September 8 is very high and it is during this period that President Lungu and SADC will have to ensure that Zimbabweans have the same confidence they have exhibited in their electoral system so that the results of the run-off are not disputed to a point of destabilising Zimbabwe and the region.
Zimbabweans have already shown SADC that they can handle their affairs in their own way. Therefore, handling any disputes resulting from elections requires SADC to use member countries’ best relations with the people of Zimbabwe such as that of Zimbabwe and Zambia. The bond between Zambia and Zimbabwe is so strong that it will not be surprising to see Zambians join Zimbabweans on the streets of Lusaka celebrating the victory of their party candidate.
Whilst most African elections are merely a ‘democratic’ way of legitimising a regime, Zimbabweans should be praised for holding what looks like a free and fair election.
The voter turnout and citizen engagement are fruits of respect for the constitution from both the leaders and the citizens. Zambia and the rest of SADC have a role to ensure that Zimbabwe continues to move on this path of smooth transition from the Robert Mugabe era. It is only through this process that Zimbabwe will regain its position politically and economically in the global system.
Zambia is a host to many Zimbabweans for many reasons, but whether they choose to go back to Zimbabwe or make Zambia their home is a matter of preference due to shared national values and ideals. This Zambia- Zimbabwe bond should be the reason to further strengthen all the bilateral agreements between these two countries, politically and economically.
Whilst both countries are landlocked, Zimbabwe has the geographical strategic advantage over Zambia going down south while the latter has the advantage going north.
Apart from the Zimbabweans, the SADC region is one of the biggest winners of this election because it is seen is a pinnacle of all political and economic predicaments that might have hindered integrated regional integration due to instability in Zimbabwe.
It is incumbent upon SADC heads of state to use the August 2018 to recognise Zimbabwe as a powerhouse in the practice of democracy and remind the Zimbabweans that the region is fully in support of their hope for political and economic emancipation using their ways.
Whatever the outcome of the Zimbabwean elections, SADC and Zambia in particular should embrace all participants of the election in order to solidify the unity created in that country. Zimbabwe should be helped to trust and work with one another for the common good of Zimbabwe.
The author is a Master of International Relations and Development student at Mulungushi University.
Analysis: OLIVER NZALA