JOHANNESBURG – Africa lags behind other continents in terms of development, despite the abundance of natural resources, because of her egocentric leaders, who fail to use their nous to improve the life of their people in particular and the continent in general, said political analysts and legal experts who met in Johannesburg recently.
During a seminar dubbed “Ensuring Free and Fair Elections in Africa: The Role of Electoral Commissions, the Media and the Courts”, held at Constitution Hill, Johannesburg, the experts took turns to emphasize the importance of free and fair elections in Africa, saying that would help bring in leaders capable of bettering the people’s lives.
The experts bemoaned lack of electoral independence, among a plethora of challenges Africa faces, which led to elections in most countries being dubbed not free and not fair.
Mosotho Moepya, Commissioner of South Africa’s Independent Electoral Commission, said elections could only be free and fair if they were progressive, adding voters’ rights should not be violated and that people should be allowed to vote for their parties of choice without any form of intimidation.
“In our nature when we hold elections we should see an improvement in the future, after some researches were made,” said Mr Moepya.
“The price one pays before elections is normally lower than the one after elections, depending on how elections went on. The way elections were conducted determines whether the price would be advantageous or disadvantageous.”
Political commentator Peter Godwin blasted the liberation movements in Southern Africa for supporting their counterparts even where they were wrong. The international community was not spared either for its silence on the degree of brutality taking place in Africa.
“The international community failed and still can’t condemn the brutality we have witnessed in Africa such as the one by Zanu PF’s Gukurahundi atrocities in Zimbabwe,” said Godwin.
“Southern Africa’s liberation movements are prepared to change positions within their party ranks, but they are not prepared to see the opposition getting into power even after the voters have voted them.”
Zimbabwe constitutional lawyer Douglas Coltart reiterated the importance of the independence of electoral commissions.
“A lot of things have been lost because of elections falsely being under the power of election commissioners,” said Coltart.
“The independence of election commissions basically means the independence of commissioners. The commission should preside over elections without an external interference. Once the electoral commission fails to give the voters’ roll to the voters as provided by the law, then there is no way such elections could be said to be free and fair.”
He further said that the credibility of elections and democracy had a major bearing on the future of a country and its people.
Kenya’s Elisha Ongoya said the mishandling of elections in a country could spark a civil war, giving the example of the announcement of the Kenyan election results on December 30, 2007.
“The announcement of the 30th December 2007 election results blew Kenya into civil war. Elections should be progressive and bring hope to people,” said Ongoya.
“If reforms are not made then you are likely to see a disastrous tomorrow. The reforms undertaken in any country injects an air of optimism while the low law reforms breathes an atmosphere of pessimism. Free and fair elections is not only aligned with the freedom to vote but on accurate and verifiable results regardless of whatever method was used in voting.”