December 18, 2010

Mugabe insists on full elections in 2011 / No elections unless free and fair, says SADC

President Mugabe has said that his party was ready to regain its political dominance, likening it to a fast-moving train that would crush those who stood in its way. Winding up the annual convention of his ZANU-PF party, he claimed the party was "rejuvenated" after losing its parliamentary majority in the last elections. He described it as a "fired, fueled, fast-moving train." He has called for national elections next year to bring an end to the shaky two-year coalition with Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, a former longtime opposition leader.

But in his closing address to 4,500 party loyalists, Mugabe stopped short of declaring a timetable for future elections. Tsvangirai's party argues the nation was not ready for elections next year, citing economic woes and long delays in rewriting the nation's outdated constitution. He therefore urges for Presidential elections to be held in 2011, while Parliamentary and local government elections should follow in 2013.

However. addressing delegates to the 11th Zanu-PF Annual National People's Conference in Mutare, Mugabe emphasized that the Constitution was clear on this issue, adding that he was not interested in extending the inclusive Government's lifespan. According to action timelines in the Global Political Agreement between Zanu-PF and the two MDC formations, the inclusive Government's tenure would end in February 2011. The parties were required to steer a constitution-making programme whose outcome was to be put to the people in a referendum after which a national plebiscite is to be held, the Herald writes. However, constitutional experts have pointed out that the general elections could be held even if a new constitution was not put in place. "We agreed to work together in the Global Political Agreement as a compromise, but we also said that it would not be a permanent arrangement for running the country”, Mugabe noted on this issue. He also referred to the Constitution of Zimbabwe (Amendment) Number 18 Act of 2007, which states that elections should be harmonised.

While ZANU PF delegates to their annual conference were set to back Robert Mugabe's call for an election next year, reports suggest that Politburo members were still divided over the issue, while their Parliamentarians have long made it clear they're against running in an election again, before their terms expire in 2013.

Moreover, in the foreword to the Central Committee report, President Mugabe once more attacked the MDC-T, some NGOs and western countries, by accusing them to divide the country and promoting parallel government structures and processes. There are also fears that Mugabe could use revelations by WikiLeaks, that expose opinions of former United States ambassadors in Harare on how to deal with ZANU-PF. Mugabe and ZANU-PF have deliberately interpreted the 'cables' in a way that supports their on-going anti MDC stance. They say the leaked cables confirm the 'conspiracy' between Western governments and the MDC, to remove Mugabe from power.

Mugabe said he felt betrayed by revelations that Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai privately urged Western countries to maintain sanctions against the country. 'This is why even as we tried to call for a united and uncompromising stance against sanctions, we could not get the level of commitment we hoped for,' Mugabe said, urging his central committee to back his call for an early poll.

Before the annual ZANU-PF conference took place, the Southern African Development Community (SADC) has told the country’s three leaders not to hold elections until they have agreed on a clear roadmap for a peaceful, free and fair election, sources close to Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai have said.

Accordingly, Tsvangirai, concerned about elections next year, had received assurance from SADC facilitators that elections would not be held until a strategy was agreed.
Through South African President Jacob Zuma, the SADC-appointed facilitator of Zimbabwe’s coalition government, SADC leaders are said to be attempting to block President Robert Mugabe’s bid for an election next year to avoid a repeat of the bloodshed in the 2008 presidential election when more than 200 MDC supporters were murdered.

Zuma, who visited Zimbabwe a week ago, was said to have pressed the three leaders, Mugabe, Tsvangirai and Arthur Mutambara, for an election blueprint before the end of the year. The deadline, though, is considered too short as the parties are still embroiled in a dispute over the implementation of the global political agreement (GPA). The demand by the SADC is likely to see an extension of the troubled unity government, which was supposed to end next year with fresh elections. It is widely hinted that Zanu –PF has been keen to get an election next year, while its instruments of intimidation are still in place. Already there are reports of intimidation of MDC supporters by Zanu youth militia and war veterans in rural areas.

The SADC has also emphasized the need for the completion of the stalled constitution making process, which has been put on ice because of financial constraints and disagreements between the political parties. The referendum for the constitution, which was supposed to be held in February next year, is likely to be delayed.
MDC spokesperson Nelson Chamisa said he was unaware of the SADC’s position.
“I have not received that information, but that would be welcome because we want an environment that is conducive to a free and fair election. There is a difference between a boxing match and an election,: he said. (The Herald/SWRadio/The Zimbabwean/SADOCC)

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