Zanu PF on course to end Robert Mugabe's era

HARARE – President Robert Mugabe's election plans are in disarray following an embarrassing climbdown by his Zanu-PF negotiators during inter-party negotiations last week.

This was after they were put under overwhelming pressure to accept that polls would not be held this year as their leader demanded.

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This was a major blow to Mugabe’s strategy and tactics for elections, which he desperately wanted to be held this year mainly because of health problems and advice from the Joint Operations Command (JOC).

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The JOC brings together army, police and intelligence chiefs. It is Mugabe’s pillar of support and devises survival strategies for him.

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Mugabe also thinks he has better prospects of winning against his bitter rival, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, if elections are held this year when the MDC-T is still embroiled in internal strife. The MDC-T is reeling from wrangling following its volatile congress which ended in Bulawayo yesterday.

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Besides Zanu-PF, which resolved at its annual conference in December that elections should be held this year, sees better chances of defeating the MDC-T before it emerges from destabilisation caused by its participation in the inclusive government.

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The timing and conditions of elections are critical as the country battles to go through a turbulent and long-winded transition to democracy.

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MDC-T and MDC-N negotiators told the Sunday Times that they told Zanu-PF representatives that there would be no elections this year. Negotiators met on April 4, 6, 7, 20 and 21 to draft an elections road map.

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“We simply told Zanu-PF negotiators that they should forget about elections this year because it is not practically possible, even if Mugabe insists on it,” a senior MDC-T negotiator said.

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“It was clear they wanted to put pressure on us and impose their own agenda and resolutions that elections be held this year but we rejected that. We want elections but we don’t want to be stampeded into contesting polls in a climate of fear where voters would be subjected to violence and intimidation and the outcome disputed.”

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An MDC-N representative said negotiators refused to be swayed by Zanu-PF’s position and all the parties ended up agreeing that elections would not be held this year, much to Mugabe’s chagrin.

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The negotiators, Patrick Chinamasa and Nicholas Goche of Zanu-PF, Tendai Biti and Elton Mangoma of MDC-T and Moses Mzila Ndlovu and Priscilla Misihairabwi-Mushonga of MDC-N, last week agreed on the road map and signed the agreement before forwarding it to SA President Jacob Zuma this week. The negotiators had on April 8 completed the review of the Global Political Agreement (GPA) and the Government of National Unity (GNU) and sent a report to Zuma.

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Zuma’s facilitation team of Charles Nqakula, Mac Maharaj and Lindiwe Zulu will meet with the negotiators in Cape Town on May 6 and 7 to evaluate progress and resolve outstanding issues.

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The SA team was recently in Harare to meet negotiators and pressure on them to craft the road map.

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On Friday Chinamasa confirmed to the state media that elections were “not possible” this year.

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“The election road map identifies activities to be undertaken before elections, taking into account that some activities had to be taken sequentially and others concurrently,” Chinamasa said. “It is my opinion that it is not possible to hold elections this year. We need to start talking about elections next year or in 2013.”

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This is a slap in the face for Mugabe and effectively calls his bluff after he made repeated public declarations that elections would be held this year with or without a new constitution, in line with Zanu-PF resolutions in Mutare last year.

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Mugabe even threatened to withdraw from the GPA and dissolve the GNU in February if he didn’t get his way.

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Later, he claimed he was going to call for elections unilaterally . Again he failed. His party has made endless pronouncements that elections were coming in August or September, but negotiators have rejected this.

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Tsvangirai has said Mugabe has no power to call for elections alone under the current GPA and GNU dispensations. He was vindicated last week by the negotiators, who agreed in their signed document, Road map to Zimbabwe’s Elections, that Mugabe would only proclaim election dates “in consultation with the prime minister”.

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The road map calls upon the political leadership to collectively establish clear priorities, with a particular focus on how to secure conditions for genuine and credible elections.

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As endorsed by the recent Southern African Development Community (SADC) troika of the organ on politics, defence and security summit in Zambia, the SADC “Principles and Guidelines Governing Democratic Elections” provide a framework of reference.

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The referendum on the draft constitution expected in September would be a litmus test of Zimbabwe’s electoral conditions before decisive free and fair elections are held.  – TimesLive