Call for Zimbabwe elections was 'Nervous Excitement'

Harare, – Member of Parliament and Co-Chairman of the Constitutional Parliamentary Committee (Copac), Douglas Mwonzora, said President Robert Mugabe and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai call for elections next year could have just been a case of "nervous excitement".\r\n

He said there was currently "nothing" on the table to impel his Committee or the Zimbabwe Electoral Committee (ZEC) to hold elections next year as regularly said by the two Movement for Democratic Change (MDC-T) and Zanu (PF) party heavyweights.

Mugabe has called for elections next year saying he does not want to see the life of the two year inclusive government extended while Tsvangirai has said fresh elections will help the country move forward.

"We do not listen to what leaders say at rallies when they are talking to their voters," Mwonzora, a lawyer, said at a workshop in Harare amid applause from participants.

"Only when we get written request from a party or its leader do we take the issue seriously and this has not been done to-date.

"They must also address Parliament and tell it that they want elections and then we as a committee can listen to them and make the necessary preparations for the event."

"Anything said at rallies is made under nervous excitement and I think the leaders (Mugabe and Tsvangirai) were excited when they made the statements."

Mugabe has even gone as far as telling the Minister of Finance, Tendai Biti, to prepare for the watershed occasion by raising the necessary funds.

When asked whether this too was also done because of "nervous excitement" by President Mugabe, Mwonzora told radio VOP: "I think you just read about this in the Press. President Mugabe did not say Tendai Biti should look for money to fund the election."

"Anyway none of the leaders have come to Parliament to request for an election next year and so as far as we are concerned we will simply follow the road map as discussed when we began the Outreach Programme.

"I think if elections are held they will be held at the end of the year because we still have some submissions from Thematic Groups to be made and this could take some time. Maybe April, next year, could be fine for the elections to be held."

Mownzora also said the beleagured Constitutional Parliamentary Committee (Copac’s) Outreach Programme, had gobbled US$17 million so far.

Copac had said in the beginning that the exercise would consume about US$27 million in total.

"I can tell you that we have so far spent US$17 million," Mwonzora told Radio VOP in an exclusive interview.

"The money came from donors and the Zimbabwe Government. The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) gave us US$12 million and so far to-date the Government of Zimbabwe has given us US$5 million. However we need more money otherwise the whole exercise will continue to drag on as is currently the case."

Mwonzora said the unfortunate "debacle in Harare" which resulted in Copac breaking up and restarting the exercise due to trouble caused by disgruntled Zanu (PF) hooligans had cost Copac dearly and was regrettable.

"Whenever we re-do anything the donors do not pay and so we must pay for ourselves which is very costly," he said. "The Harare fiasco had to be paid by government and this means that our coffers are currently empty right now."

He said more money would be needed for the Outreach Programme because Copac had decided to re-do the exercise for various sectors.

"We are re-doing the exercise for people living with disabilities, youths, and people who are in prison because they were left out or could have been shunned," Mwonzora said.

"This was the case in Bulawayo where some rowdy youths disrupted a meeting at White City Stadium and the disabled could not give their views on the constitution. People in prison must also be allowed to say what they want because they will not be in jail for ever."

He said donors had pledged to continue giving support to the ambitious programme despite the fact that Zimbabwean citizens think that it is "a waste of time’.

"However donor money comes late and not when we need it," Mwonzora said. "Government must also give us more money because we need at least US$27 million for the whole exercise."