Zuma is the Southern African Development Community (SADC)’s official mediator between Tsvangirai and President Robert Mugabe, two bitter foes who only agreed to form a unity government under immense pressure from the regional body following inconclusive elections in 2008.
The South African leader is understood to be drafting a roadmap that should see Zimbabwe hold free and fair elections. Under Zuma’s roadmap, elections will follow a referendum on a new constitution and will also set milestones such as electoral reforms, the role of security forces and how to smoothly transfer power.
But the MDC said escalating political violence perpetrated by hardliner elements in Mugabe’s ZANU PF party and the military would render Zuma’s roadmap meaningless.
MDC spokesman Nelson Chamisa told ZimOnline: “We have seen an escalation of intimidation tactics by ZANU PF and its functionaries. We have advised President Zuma.
“We have indicated that we are worried with certain people claiming to be soldiers in rural areas. In fact they actually carry guns. In a situation where you have an armed section of the population turning against an unarmed majority it is cause for concern. Elections are impossible in such an atmosphere.”
The MDC, which alerted Zuma about rising political violence through his envoys who visited Zimbabwe about two weeks ago, this week also approached the joint monitoring and implementation committee (JOMIC) over the matter.
The JOMIC is an inter-party organ set up to monitor implementation of the power-sharing agreement between Mugabe, Tsvangirai and a smaller MDC faction that gave birth to their unity government. The body has been crictised as ineffective.
Under the power-sharing agreement Zimbabwe’s main political parties undertook to work to end political violence and human rights abuses.
No date for elections has been set but Mugabe has publicly said they must be held this year, while the rising reports of political violence suggest a vote is imminent either at the end of this year or early next year.
According to the MDC soldiers or people claiming to be soldiers have stepped up violence and intimidation against ZANU PF’s political opponents in Masvingo and Mashonaland East provinces.
While in other provinces, soldiers were keeping a presence in communities and verbally warning villagers that anyone who votes for Tsvangirai and his party in the next polls would pay with his/her life, according to the MDC as well as some civil society groups monitoring the situation on the ground.
ZimOnline reported earlier this month that the military is plotting to unleash unprecedented violence and terror — worse than seen in the bloody 2008 presidential run-off poll in which at least 200 of Tsvangirai’s supporters died and tens of thousands of others were made homeless — to cow Zimbabweans into backing Mugabe at the next polls.
The military will run Mugabe’s re-election campaign, sidelining ZANU PF that the generals consider too divided and lethargic to fight an election against Tsvangirai and the MDC who remain hugely popular with voters.
The military-led campaign will see at least 80 000 youth militia, war veterans and soldiers deployed across the country to crush the MDC support base and moblise votes for Mugabe, who turns 87 next month.
ZANU PF denies that the military will run the party’s campaign.
Meanwhile Air Vice Marshal Henry Muchena has told ZANU PF leaders in Mashonaland West province that the military was taking over the party’s campaign programmes and that the political leaders will have to follow and abide by a campaign to be designed by the soldiers.
According to our sources in ZANU PF, Muchena who is in charge of the military’s plan to keep Mugabe in power, met the party’s provincial executive three weeks ago at Magunje barracks in the province.
“The meeting was tense and Muchena accused us of not campaigning for President Robert Mugabe in the last elections,” said our source, who was at the meeting.
“He further said district and provincial members were misinforming the President that he still has support when what was on the ground is the opposite. He told us that they are taking over all party business to ensure that the party wins at all costs.’’
Muchena could be reached last night for comment on the matter.
However, and as earlier reported by ZimOnline Muchena and other senior military commanders have in recent met ZANU PF leaders in the various provinces to tell them to step aside for the military to campaign for Mugabe’s re-election.
For example at one such meeting in Manicaland province last November, Brigadier General Douglas Nyikayaramba and Air Commodore Innocent Chiganze told the ZANU PF provincial leadership that the military was taking over the party’s campaign in order to be able to stop Tsvangirai from winning.
Below are some of the cases of violence and intimidation documented by the MDC over the last three weeks:
- 2 January: A group of soldiers from the 4.2 Infantry Battalion went and beat up people at Mupandawana Growth Point (rural business center) in Gutu, Masvingo province. Dozens of people were injured.
- 5 January: More than 30 people were injured and shops were forced to close at Jerera Growth Point in Zaka again in the same province after another group of soldiers attacked villagers.
- 5 January: Chiefs in Bubi and Nkayi, Matebeleland North province, are reported to be telling villagers that soldiers will soon be deployed in the area as peace keepers ahead of elections.
- 8 January: Elson Mutonhori, the MDC Masvingo South secretary was on Saturday morning abducted at gunpoint by Major General Engelbert Rugeje and one Major Toperesu at his Renco Mine home. Rugeje and Toperesu who were driving an unmarked white Mitsubishi truck took Mutonhori to the Rock Motel in Chivi some 100 km away, where they interrogated and intimidated him until midnight for wearing MDC regalia. Mutonhori made a report at Renco Mine Police Station but police officers refused to open a docket claiming the issue was political.
- 10 January: Self-styled war veteran Jabulani Sibanda addressed a rally in Ngundu, Chivi, Masvingo province, and threatened villagers with death if they voted for the MDC in the next elections.
- 13 January: Scores of ZANU PF youths caused disturbances at the MDC headquarters, Harvest House, Harare, and attacked innocent shoppers and workers.
- 18 January: ZANU PF militia gave the MDC run Gokwe town council up to February 11 to leave office and pave way for ZANU PF members or risk violent evictions. Gokwe town council chairman Darlington Mudondo says Gokwe councillors were leaving in fear as ZANU PF militia, led by a local notorious party leader Mike Gwasha, were visiting each councillor’s homestead with the threatening notices. — ZimOnline