Robert Mugabe | Freedom House

Robert Mugabe

With a constitutional referendum and subsequent national elections drawing near, Zimbabwe is poised to enter an exciting and highly uncertain period. However, if left in the hands of the current political elites, the creation of a democratic Zimbabwe remains unlikely at best.

Southern Africa’s regional court has been shuttered for almost two years, but in August it may make a comeback, albeit with limited powers. The following blog post examines why this is an important development for more than just the human rights community.

As a rule, political leaders in southern Africa do not care for vibrant, independent-minded courts. In a region where respect for human rights, the rule of law, and judicial independence are in short supply, so too are courageous courts capable of challenging excessive executive powers.

Karl Beck, Freedom House’s director for Southern Africa, discusses possible political scenarios for Zimbabwe after 88-year-old President Robert Mugabe leaves the scene.

After a smooth start in the early post-apartheid period, South Africa’s ruling party, the African National Congress (ANC), is increasingly afflicted by contradictions between its idealistic principles and the baser behaviors of many of its officeholders. These behaviors currently include threats to institute tighter controls over the judiciary and the ANC’s civil society critics, especially the independent media. A discernable trend toward intolerance of judicial brakes on executive power, and also toward a general aversion to any criticism of executive policies and actions, raises troubling questions about the future of democratic governance in South Africa.

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