Editor: Denis Kadima
Managing Editor: Heather Acott
Contributors: Justin Willis, Nic Cheeseman, Gabrielle Lynch, Greg Mills, Hangala Siachiwena, Mwiza Jo Nkhata, Anganile Willie Mwenifumbo, Alfred Majamanda, Hoolo ’Nyane, Mamello Rakolobe, Victoria Lihiru, Limukani Mathe, Terence Tapiwa Muzorewa, Mark Nyandoro
Key terms: Elections, independence, participation, citizenship, voting, Kenya, Ghana, Uganda, alternation, authoritarianism, democracy, institutions, Patriotic Front, United Party for National Development, Zambia, elections, electoral systems, burden and standard of proof, meaning of ‘majority’, electoral gender quotas, Lesotho, National Assembly Electoral Act, Local Government Elections Act, National Assembly, local councils, electoral system, temporary special measures; special seats system; elections; women and electoral right, proportional representation (PR), mixed electoral system, voter participation, independent candidates, multi-party democracy, digital technologies, elections, rural-urban voting preferences, political participation, ZANU-PF, MDC, African nationalism, Zimbabwe.
Justin Willis is Professor of Modern African History, Durham University
Nic Cheeseman is Professor of Democracy, University of Birmingham
Gabrielle Lynch is Professor of Comparative Politics,University of Warwick
A large literature has described the years after independence from colonial rule as a period of ‘departicipation’. Africa's new rulers – whether driven by personal venality or a sincere commitment to nation-building – swiftly gave up on elections, or at best held elections that, by denying choice, left violence as the central dynamic of African politics. This article draws on the cases of Kenya, Ghana and Uganda in the late 1960s to argue that the emphasis often placed on the ‘speed and ease’ of this process has been overstated. Instead, Africa's politicians and civil servants valued elections as a means to educate and discipline the public, even as they feared their possible outcomes. Building on a literature that focuses on the individual experience of elections rather than the presence or absence of parties, we argue that the rhetoric of politicians and civil servants shows that they saw elections as ‘exercises’ – a revealing term – that would train and test their new citizens. Yet this is not the whole story: voters understood their participation in their own terms and played a role in how early experiments with elections played out. The political closures of these years were real, but their course was unplanned and contingent, shaped partly by popular involvement. These points are not only of historical value, but also provide important insights into the extent to which contemporary elections are instruments of elite power or the drivers of democratisation.
Greg Mills is the director of the Johannesburg-based Brenthurst Foundation and was in Ethiopia during the election
ABSTRACT: 'The population is being moved out of here, and here,' the UN officer pointed out on a map of Ethiopia's northernmost Tigray region, speaking just days before the June election. 'Western Tigray is being extensively depopulated,' he said, tapping the location of the now ghost town of Humera, once an important regional agricultural centre. As the last Ethiopian city south of the border with Eritrea and Sudan, it is considered a strategic gateway to Sudan. 'What we are seeing,' he notes, 'is that Tigrayans are being "encouraged" to abandon their homes and lands in large areas of the southern part of eastern Tigray as well. What we hear repeatedly,' he adds, in echoes of the former Yugoslavia, 'is the need to "clean the bloodlines" of Tigray'.
Hangala Siachiwena is a post-doctoral research fellow in the Institute for Democracy, Citizenship and Public Policy in Africa at the University of Cape Town
ABSTRACT: This paper discusses Zambia’s 2021 election which was held in a context of democratic backsliding and poor economic performance. The election resulted in Zambia’s third alternation of power between political parties since the democratic wave of the 1990s. The ruling Patriotic Front (PF) used its incumbent advantages to control institutions that were crucial for promoting democracy and ensuring a credible election. The election was also characterised by political violence which limited the ability for the opposition United Party for National Development (UPND) to mobilise freely. Further, an Afrobarometer survey conducted in December 2020 showed that half of all citizens surveyed were unwilling to declare who they would vote for, thereby suppressing the extent of UPND’s support. Yet, the UPND won 59% in the presidential election and won the most parliamentary seats in an election that had one of the highest voter-turnouts since the advent of Zambia’s multi-party democracy
This paper argues that there was a ‘silent revolution’ in Zambia that resulted in the defeat of the PF. It also shows that Zambian citizens have not been complacent in the face of democratic backsliding.
Mwiza Jo Nkhata is extraordinary professor, Free State Centre for Human Rights, University of the Free State
Anganile Willie Mwenifumbo is a human rights officer, United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights
Alfred Majamanda is a partner, Mbendera & Nkhono Associates
ABSTRACT: In February 2020, the High Court of Malawi nullified the May 2019 presidential election and ordered a fresh election. This judgment was later confirmed by the Malawi Supreme Court of Appeal. These two judgments are monumental and unprecedented because this was only the second time a presidential election had been judicially nullified in Africa. The fresh presidential election also scored a first in Africa when it was won by an opposition candidate. These judgments carved new terrain for electoral law in Malawi and divided legal and political opinion. This paper offers a critical analysis of the two judgments. It focuses on the court’s treatment of the burden and standard of proof in electoral disputes; the interpretation of ‘majority’ to mean 50% + 1; and the effect of the nullification of the 2019 presidential election and consequential transitional issues. Overall, the paper concludes that while the outcome of the litigation garnered plaudits, the reasoning in the two judgments is not wholly persuasive.
Hoolo 'Nyane is Associate Professor and Head of Department of Public and Environmental Law, University of Limpopo
Mamello Rakolobe is a lecturer in the Department of Political and Administrative Studies, National University of Lesotho and PhD candidate, University of Botswana
ABSTRACT: Women are under-represented in legislative bodies in the majority of countries, and Lesotho is no exception to this worldwide trend. In an attempt to address this problem, the country has adopted, through electoral laws, electoral gender quota systems for both local and national legislative structures. The country has introduced a 30% gender quota requirement for election to the local councils at the local level. At the national level, it introduced a ‘zebra list’ – the condition that when political parties submit lists for the purposes of 40 proportional representation (PR) seats in the National Assembly, the names must alternate between those of men and women. The idea was to attain 50% representation of women in the National Assembly, at least for the 40 PR seats. The effectiveness of these two quota systems in enhancing women’s representation has been the subject of intense disagreement. The animating question is whether, since the adoption of gender quotas, the representation of women in legislative bodies has improved. The article investigates this question using the qualitative content analysis method. The central hypothesis is that electoral gender quotas in Lesotho, particularly at the national level, have not significantly improved the representation of women. The paper critiques the models used and makes some recommendations for reform.
Victoria Lihiru is a law lecturer at the Open University of Tanzania
ABSTRACT: This article focuses on the CHADEMA dispute regarding the selection of its 19 women to special parliamentary seats after the completion of the 2020 general elections in Tanzania. It argues that the dispute is caused by the failure of the National Electoral Commission (NEC) to provide political parties with a uniform and transparent modality for the selection of women to special seats against the requirement of Article 81 of the 1977 Constitution. The NEC’s failure has led to modalities of implementing women’s special seats that are incompatible with the international standards governing ‘Temporary Special Measures’ (TSM). This has led to conflict, the marginalisation and discrimination of women in special seats, ridicule of the special seats system, and a slow transition of women from special to constituency seats. The article provides suggestions on how the special seats system could be reviewed and repositioned to achieve its intended objectives.
Limukani Mathe is a postdoctoral research fellow and lecturer in the Department of Media and Communication, University of Johannesburg
ABSTRACT: This article discusses electoral reforms and the use of digital technologies for voter participation in South Africa. The study employed focus group discussions and in-depth interviews through semi-structured questions to engage with voters and politicians. Informed by theories on politics and technology, the articles notes that the current electoral system has advantages and disadvantages, though it can be enhanced by the inclusion of a mixed proportional or constituency-based electoral system whereby voters elect political party candidates or independent candidates to represent their constituencies. The article argues that digital technologies alone cannot enhance voter participation without electoral policies that promote voter participation in the candidate selection processes for provincial and national elections. The article further highlights the fact that the use of digital technologies and a mixed electoral system are desirable for maximum citizen participation in national and provincial elections. However, some political parties enjoying dominance in the multi-party democracy might perceive reform as unfavourable. The article concludes that consensus and political will are fundamental to harness all progressive electoral reforms and digital tools for sustainable democracy.
Terence Tapiwa Muzorewa is a lecturer in the Department of Development Studies, Midlands State University, Harare, Zimbabwe
Mark Nyandoro is a professor of Economic History in the Department of History, Heritage and Knowledge Systems, University of Zimbabwe
ABSTRACT: This article analyses rural electorate consciousness and urban voting preferences during Zimbabwe’s elections from 1980 to 2018. The article gives agency to the rural dwellers in elections, contrary to the general perception of a captured rural voter and liberal urban voter. To analyse rural voters’ electoral consciousness, the paper uses primary sources (electoral statistical records), oral interviews (notwithstanding the prevailing COVID-19 lockdown environment) and secondary literature to derive research data. The data helps to determine the differences between urban and rural ideologies, culture and ethics which manifest in the political party preferences of the social groups in the two geographical spaces. The paper concludes that rural dwellers tended to support the ruling party at elections, though they were more vulnerable to political patronage and seemingly forced participation in electoral processes than the urban voters. Nonetheless, complex cultural, economic, social and historic factors compelled them to participate in elections more than their urban counterparts. Thus, rural voters can be viewed as conscious participants in electoral processes with varied, albeit mobilised participation and political ideologies.