MDC treading on dangerous ground ahead of 2011 elections

Mugabe told the fifth congress of the Zanu PF Women’s League at the weekend that the inclusive government formed between his Zanu PF and MDC would windup all constitution reforms within 18 months and call elections six months later. Tsvangirai’s MDC party, meanwhile, have been warned that they are treading on dangerous ground.

"At the end of 18 months we will have a draft [constitution] and we will present it to the people. If the people accept it, we will have elections within 24 months and there will be a new government. You must have this timetable in your minds," he said. "Let’s work towards emerging victorious in 24 months time."

Mugabe insisted the new constitution would be based on the controversial Kariba Draft Constitution that was agreed on by the parties, but which the MDC and civil society organisations now reject. The MDC has said it will oppose the Kariba Draft framework despite appending their signature to it in September 2007, as they believe that the draft entrenches the executive powers of the President and leaves Mugabe’s powers intact.

The Kariba Draft was produced and signed by Zanu PF and the two MDC factions in 2007 during talks under the auspices of former South African President Thabo Mbeki.

President Mugabe said the document would certainly be the basis of the new constitution. "We look forward to the new constitution and for us, we will go by the Kariba Draft. That’s what we agreed upon. Every page of that draft has signatures of all parties and there’s no way anyone can run away from it," he said. "Nobody is disallowed to give proposals but on our side, we expect that the three parties will go by the Kariba Draft."

Meanwhile, Morgan Tsvangirai’s MDC at the weekend embarked on nationwide consultations to ask its members whether they should disengage from the inclusive government as the party and Zanu PF continue to disagree on outstanding issues.

Dangerous ground

The grassroots consultations come after a number of high-level party meetings failed to come up with a clear position on the future of the inclusive government. It has been reported that the party’s officials are divided on their continued stay in the inclusive government. Some senior members are said to be pushing for a complete withdrawal, a position that has received resistance from Tsvangirai and some of his lieutenants.

MDC-T national spokesperson, Nelson Chamisa says the meetings were to allow members of the public to give their views on whether or not the inclusive government "is still a worthy project". "We are simply throwing the argument to the people," said Chamisa, "updating them on the current state of things and allowing them to share their views. We want to hear from them whether they think it is worthy for us to continue in the inclusive government. Do they think this is a worthy project?"

John Makumbe, a University of Zimbabwe political science lecturer, says it was understandable why some MDC members wanted out of the inclusive government. Zimbabweans are frustrated by the slow pace at resolving the sticking issues, but Makumbe is doubtful the MDC would walkout of government.

Makumbe said consulting ordinary people on the fate of the MDC in the unity government could be disastrous. "I doubt whether Tsvangirai and his team would adhere to the views of the people if told to get out of government. The consultation route is dangerous as they might fail to implement the wishes of the people therefore plunging them into a dilemma," he said. Makumbe said MDC should be seen at this stage soliciting views on how to "make the GNU work".