March 23, 2007

Election in 2008 likely

After a report in the state-owned Herald newspaper this week it was apparent that President Robert Mugabe had conceded that his bid for an extended presidential term until 2010 was not a runner. Now he will seek to bulldoze through party agreement to his candidacy in presidential elections next year. The intra Zanu-PF power struggle grew out of the party's conference in Goromonzi last year, when Mugabe failed to win unanimous support from all the provinces for his plan to prolong his term to 2010. Last week he also failed to secure backing from the party's Youth League and he faces resistance from major internal factions. He also wants the parliamentary elections, scheduled for 2010, to be run next year, causing anxiety among Zanu-PF MPs who will see their tenure cut by two years.
An 'elite solution' backing one or other of the main factions in Zanu-PF could involve a transfer of effective power from Mugabe in the interim period until an election, but a challenge of this magnitude would be bitterly fought by his supporters at the central committee meeting.
Part of the plan being worked on by the SADC countries is likely to include guarantees of judicial immunity for actions during his rule, but once he lets go the reins of power calls for his arraignment are expected to grow. They may be boosted by a new international human rights culture crystallized around the International Criminal Court that asserts that former heads of state accused of major crimes, such as the Yugoslav strongman Slobodan Milosovich, should stand trial. Zimbabwe is not a signatory to the ICC but there are other routes through which he might be indicted - for example for torture, which is recognised as an international crime. Last week, too, the US said in a statement that it held Mugabe personally liable for the brutal attacks on his political opponents.
In SA government minds seemed focused less on the brutality against opposition leaders and cadres over the past two weeks than on the spectre of a repeat, but worse, during a presidential election in 2010. Then mayhem in the streets in Harare and Bulawayo would run in tandem with the soccer World Cup and would effectively torpedo Mbeki's hopes for catapulting Africa and South Africa onto the world stage through tourism and publicity selling the 'African Renaissance'.
Determination to avoid such a scenario does not mean that SA ministers have any clear vision of what a future Zimbabwe government should look like. They - and a number of analysts - do not see the MDC as a credible government and the factions around Solomon Mujuru and Emmerson Mnangagwa are scarcely likely to be more democracy-minded than Mugabe himself. Those whom SA has backed in past years, such as the moderate technocrat Simba Makoni, have no noticeable constituency either inside Zanu-PF or outside.
The balance of power inside Zanu-PF in the transition period until March next year has yet to be established, but currently the money is on Joyce (also spelled Joice) Mujuru, the current Zimbabwean vice president, taking an increasingly high profile in government. The faction she and her husband, Gen. Solomon Majuru control appears to have increased its influence because of his security sector connections. (SouthScan)

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