The role of judiciaries in presidential electoral disputes resolution in Africa : the cases of Zambia and Zimbabwe

10 Oct 2019

The African continent, arguably more than any other continent, is riddled with electoral disputes. While disputes are an inherent feature of elections; in Africa electoral disputes culminate in violence and havoc. Instead of ameliorating this trend, judiciaries seem to exacerbate it. The electoral laws in the majority of African countries provide for dispute resolution mechanisms. At the apex of these mechanisms are the judiciaries. The judiciaries ordinarily play the role of adjudication of disputes in societies; and this role is widely accepted. With regards to electoral disputes the role of the judiciary is not without any controversy. The role of the judiciary in election related conflicts is complicated not only by the fact that they oftentimes decide in favour of the establishment but also, and much more importantly, by the principle of democracy. The cases of Zambia and Zimbabwe provide perfect microcosms of a pervasive problem in Africa. The principle of democracy reposes the ultimate power to decide rulers in the electorate. Allowing the judiciaries to second-guess the electorate is controversial. The main question is whether judiciaries in Africa should continue to be final arbiters on electoral disputes; particularly the disputes that concern the electoral results. Another question is whether judiciaries in Africa have been adjudicating on electoral disputes in a manner that enhances the higher objective of democratisation. The questions will be investigated by studying the leading decided cases from the two countries under study. Methodically, the paper will use the politico-legal approach as the subject straddles both the political and legal studies.