How to lose an election and stay in power: an in depth legal analysis of Zimbabwe in the post March 29 2008 election period

How to lose an election and stay in power: an in depth legal analysis of Zimbabwe in the post March 29 2008 election period

Juridical manipulation to retain a hold on power

Zimbabwe's ruling party, ZANU-PF, in the March 2008 elections, lost their majority in parliament, whilst their leader Robert Mugabe went to succeed in a run-off election which was dogged by accusations of violence and intimidation. This paper examines the juridical mechanisms deployed to achieve ZANU-PF's hold on power and examines the legality of these measures in respect of the Presidency, Parliament and Local Government.

The paper begins by examining events prior to the election itself, and reveals numerous juridical manoeuvrings which were designed to retain Mugabe's power over the office of the presidency. It also highlights the considerable room Mugabe has been afforded for further such manoeuvres through poor legislative drafting of electoral law and constitutional provisions.

Some key findings include:

  • Mugabe's hold on power has been retained through juridical mechanisms including distortions and violations of public order legislation, the Criminal Procedure and Evidence Act, and electoral regulations relating to broadcasting during the elections
  • since the March 28 2008 election, endemic, systemic and organised violence has pervaded the country - believed to have been coordinated by the Joint Operations Command
  • such violence is intended to intimidate and discourage people from voting for the opposition Movement of Democratic Change (MDC), prevent them from doing so through displacement and prevent campaigning through beating, abduction and murder of MDC activists - it also acts as a demonstration of ZANU-PF's power
  • the juridical manoeuvrings undertaken to feign compliance with the rule of law for regional leaders, dovetail with the strategy of violent intimidation - of particular concern is the willingness of members of Zimbabwe's judiciary to assist in this regard.
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