|August 7, 2011
SADC raps Mugabe over elections
The Southern African Development Community (Sadc) has put its foot down on Zimbabwe and declared that it will not tolerate rushed elections. Sadc also rejected calls by Zanu PF hardliners that South African President Jacob Zuma step down as a mediator in the inter-party talks. The top Zanu PF members despise Zuma for insisting that the parties must stick to a roadmap that will ensure that Zimbabwe holds a free and fair election.
Tomaz Salamao, the Sadc executive secretary, told journalists in Gaborone that calls for early polls by President Robert Mugabe and Zanu PF were just political grandstanding. He was speaking ahead of the Sadc heads of state summit on August 17-18 where Zimbabwe is expected to feature prominently. "The main objective of establishing a government of national unity was to pave the way for elections," Salamao said. "So you cannot disconnect the GPA (Global Political Agreement) and elections. "Elections in Zimbabwe are part of the GPA because it was said elections in 2008 were not recognised as free and fair, let's put in place a mechanism to prepare for a free and fair election in Zimbabwe, hence the GPA. "In a nutshell, when you speak about elections you speak about the GPA and that's why we encourage all the parties to fully implement the GPA."
Zanu PF has tried to wriggle out of the Sadc-sponsored roadmap claiming that the timelines set for the much-needed reforms were too long. Mugabe has threatened to unilaterally call for elections but Salamao said this would not be accepted by Sadc or the African Union (AU), the guarantors of the power- sharing agreement. "The GPA states that the three political parties will submit to Sadc and AU the date of elections in Zimbabwe," he said. "The date should come from the parties who signed the GPA and it is binding. "They have to sign on that paper that they agree to the date of elections and they have to do that via the Sadc facilitator President Jacob Zuma."
The roadmap drawn by negotiators from Zanu PF and the two MDC formations makes it almost impossible for elections to be held this year. It categorically states that the polls must be held after the completion of the constitution-making process and the implementation of media and electoral reforms. Sadc is keen to address the Zimbabwe crisis once and for all and elections are seen as the best route to settle the matter. "What we want as a continent is for the next election in Zimbabwe to be free and fair so that they are recognised by everybody and we can have Zimbabwe back on track so that this country can play its role in the socio-economic development of our region," Salamao said.
At the Luanda summit, Zuma will take over as the chairman of the troika and this is likely to pile up pressure against Mugabe and Zanu PF. Analysts say Sadc is now tired of Zimbabwe's decade-long political crisis and regional leaders are eager to see it resolved. The impatience became apparent in March when the Sadc troika on peace and security came hard on Mugabe and told him to stop political violence and the selective application of the law. Mugabe reacted angrily and accused Zuma of dictating instead of facilitating dialogue between the governing parties.