Zanu PF digs-in on elections, blasts South African government

HARARE – The deeply divided ZANU PF Politburo is again sending conflicting signals on the country's elections and the faction led by Defence Minister Emmerson Mnangagwa says there is no going back on the country to hold elections this year amid reports of escalating hostilities within the former ruling party.

Zanu (PF)’s escalating internal wrangling over the election timetable spilled into the public domain this week – fuelled by President Robert Mugabe’s waning health.

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On Wednesday, speaking to journalist soon after emerging from the ZANU PF Politburo meeting held in Harare, the party’s Secretary for Information and Publicity, Rugare Gumbo who is aligned to the Mnangagwa’s faction said the revolutionary party has unanimously resolved to hold elections this year, dismissing claims by the party’s Secretary for Legal Affairs, Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa.

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The tussle between the party’s chief negotiator, Patrick Chinamasa, and its spokesman, Rugare Gumbo, was evident in conflicting statements.

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Sources said Chinamasa has switched sides and he has dumped the Mnangagwa faction, joining the Mujuru faction a background well explained by the Ministry of Justice and Legal Affairs transferring the administration of exiled businessman Mutumwa Mawere’s Shabani Mashava Mines Holdings (SMM) over to the Ministry of Mines and Mining Development which is marshalled by Obert Mpofu, a strong Mnangagwa’s ally.

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Chinamasa emerged from the weekend talks in Cape Town to declare that elections this year were out, to be openly challenged by Gumbo, who asserts the resolution of the party conference in December that elections would be held this year still stands.

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He said some of the conditions may not be met until 2013 at the earliest.

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“It is my own opinion that it is not possible to hold elections this year. We need to start talking about elections next year or 2013, assuming that the [constitution] referendum is completed in September as we have been advised by COPAC [Constitutional Parliamentary Committee],” Chinamasa told the state-run Herald newspaper.

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Chinamasa said Zanu PF negotiators and those from the two MDC factions led by Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and Industry Minister Welshman Ncube had agreed an “election roadmap to identify sign posts to be traversed ahead of elections in Zimbabwe” – including media reforms, amendments to the Electoral Act and the lifting of Western sanctions on Zimbabwe.

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Last night, at the press conference in Harare, Gumbo also dismissed claims by SADC facilitation team spokesperson, Lindiwe Zulu, that elections should be held next year and that the facilitation team will meet the Service Chiefs to discuss security reforms as baseless, citing that no external country has the mandate to interfere in the internal security affairs of a sovereign country.

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The ZANU PF Spokesperson also said the party does not take seriously MDC-T withdrawal from the constitution making process, adding that in the event of a permanent pull out, ZANU PF and other stakeholders will continue with the process and also inform SADC of the progress in line with the Global Political Agreement.

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The pulling out by the MDC-T from the constitutional process comes as no surprise to the politburo as it is now well know that the British Sponsored Party has run out of steam to win the elections,” said Cde Gumbo.

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Official sources say hardliners in the party and party hawks in the Mnangagwa faction are agitating for a snap election while Mugabe is still capable, while Zanu (PF) doves, mainly in the Mujru faction, wants polls delayed until 2013 when the party has worked out its succession conundrum.

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Meanwhile SADC’s pointman on Zimbabwe, SA president, Jacob Zuma, stepped up pressure on Mugabe to stick to the election roadmap. Special envoy Mac Maharaj was hastily dispatched to Harare, to ensure implementation of the GPA.

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The three main issues are the partisanship of the security chiefs, ridding the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission of Zanu (PF) cronies and an end to violence.

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Rumours of Mugabe’s imminent demise are swirling with tropical-storm force and fuelling infighting in Zanu (PF). There have been secret meetings between the protagonists in the Mnangagwa faction, which reportedly wants a fresh election in 2011, and the Mujuru faction, which to all intents and purposes now seems to be the heir apparent.

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“Everyone is plotting the future,” said a Zanu (PF) Consultative Assembly member. “I think everyone realises the end is nigh. There is nothing we can do now against the pulling power of time.” The 87-year-old Mugabe, ailing from an undisclosed illness, is reportedly being pumped with “adrenalin”, according to a well-placed Zanu (PF) source, to appear at state functions and to maintain the facade that the revolution movement is alive and well.

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Hardliners in Zanu (PF), including the service chiefs, have reportedly vowed to turn down demands by the MDC to make a public declaration that they will accept any other leader except Mugabe. They want elections this year no matter what.

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Tendai Biti, secretary general of the MDC said his party will boycott any election held this year. “We will not be party to that sham,” he told The Zimbabwe Mail. “We don’t want another 2008,” he said of an election widely condemned as rigged.

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