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Opinion / Columnist

Time to ratify AU Charter on Democracy

by Veritas
23 Sep 2021 at 06:30hrs | Views
AS we reflect on the just passed International Day on Democracy, we find it worrying that Zimbabwe has not ratified the African Charter on Democracy, Elections, and Governance. It is a long time since President Emmerson Mnangagwa, as one of his first acts on taking office, signed the Charter, and now is the opportune time to ratify it.

A Charter is the same as a treaty, that is, a formal agreement entered into by countries. A State party to a treaty is any country that has signed and ratified the treaty, and is, therefore, bound by the terms of that particular treaty.

It is essential that a State party ratifies a treaty; ratification is a declaration by that State to be bound at an international plane by that treaty.

The African Charter on Democracy, Elections, and Governance (the Charter) was adopted on January 30, 2007 at an AU Assembly of heads of States.

A majority of AU States and most Sadc States have both signed and ratified the Charter and it is becoming the accepted blueprint for democracy, elections and governance for  successful African States.

There was a great deal of favourable publicity when Mnangagwa signed the Charter at his first African Union Summit of Heads of State and Government on March 21, 2018, in Kigali, Rwanda.

The next step after a treaty has been signed is to get it approved by a country's Parliament — if the country has a constitution that provides for this, which Zimbabwe does. It is at this point, however, that government's enthusiasm for the Charter seems to have evaporated.

Veritas lobbied Parliament to get the Charter approved by Parliament before the general election in 2018.  Unfortunately, that did not happen.

Nevertheless, Veritas continued lobbing the new Parliament and after all the budget hearings had the support of the Speaker.

Eventually, a year after the President had signed the Charter, resolutions by both Houses of Parliament approving the Charter were passed during March 2019.

This approval did not mean, however, that Zimbabwe was now a full State party to the Charter. Parliamentary approval of the Charter should have been followed by Mnangagwa signing the country's Instrument of Ratification of the Charter and deposit the Instrument of Ratification at the African Union headquarters in Addis Ababa through our ambassador to the African Union.

Ratification is the final action by government to make Zimbabwe a full State party to the Charter — both in terms of the Charter itself and under international law principles.

Current position

The Instrument of Ratification, if it was ever signed, has still not been deposited. The AU website updated status list for the Charter confirms that Zimbabwe signed the Charter on March 21, 2018, but shows that ratification has not taken place to date.

Whatever the reason for the delay in ratification, government renders itself liable to the accusation that it no longer subscribes to the ideals of democracy, free and fair elections and good governance embodied in the Charter.-


Source - NewsDay Zimbabwe
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