‘Zuma’s people won’t meet our military’

HARARE – President Robert Mugabe’s ZANU PF party will not accept South African officials meeting Zimbabwe’s service chiefs to discuss security reforms, the party’s top politburo committee said on Wednesday, while insisting elections will take place this year.

ZANU PF spokesman Rugare Gumbo dismissed as “nonsensical” recent media reports that South African President Jacob Zuma’s representatives were planning to travel to Harare for talks with security chiefs to discuss reforms that analysts say are necessary to ensure Zimbabwe’s next elections are free and fair.

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In further sign of ZANU PF’s increasingly unhappy and hostile attitude towards the South African leader’s mediation effort in Zimbabwe, Gumbo said the politburo had also ruled that elections would take place this year after enactment of a new constitution.

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“Where on earth have you seen people coming to see security forces of another country? It is nonsensical,” Gumbo told journalists after the politburo meeting in Harare yesterday.

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Gumbo insisted the constitution making process exercise should be completed this year and followed by elections — ironically speaking as the troubled constitutional reforms yesterday hit another snag after the country’s three ruling parties failed to agree on how to analyse public submissions to a special committee tasked to draft the new charter.

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“We want to speed these processes (writing of constitution) and there is no reason why they can take three years yet we have agreed on two years,” Gumbo said, while accusing Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai’s MDC-T party of seeking to delay the constitution process in order to avoid polls this year.

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Zuma is the Southern African Development Community (SADC)’s official mediator in the Zimbabwean inter-party dialogue.

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Various media reports have quoted a team of facilitators appointed by Zuma as saying that Zimbabwe cannot conduct elections this year because conditions in the country are not conducive to the holding of a free and fair vote.

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The reports have also suggested that Zuma’s team would travel to Harare to meet Zimbabwe’s service chiefs apparently to secure guarantees that the military would not block transfer of power to whoever wins the next elections.

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Zimbabwe’s generals are widely seen as wielding a de facto veto over the country’s troubled transformation process and likely to block transfer of power to the winners of elections expected next year should the victors not be Mugabe and ZANU PF.

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The generals are hard-line backers of Mugabe who have in the past said they would never salute a president who did not take part in Zimbabwe’s liberation struggle, which was seen as a threat to topple Tsvangirai should he ever win presidential elections. The Prime Minister did not take part in the struggle.

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A power-sharing agreement officially known as the global political agreement (GPA) that gave birth to Zimbabwe’s unity government requires the administration to write a new and democratic constitution before calling elections.

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A multi-party parliamentary committee leading the writing of the new constitution has said it expects to have a draft charter ready to be taken before Zimbabweans in a referendum by September. But the committee might fail to meet that target after suspending work on the new charter following differences over how to read public submissions.

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ZANU PF is apparently pushing for a quantitative approach where the number of times an issue or idea was raised during last year’s public hearings on the new constitution would determine whether it should be included in the new charter.

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This approach would twist the proposed new constitution to largely reflect the ideas of Mugabe’s party which last year sent out its feared youth militia and war veterans threatening and intimidating villagers to parrot the views of party during an outreach exercise to collect the views of citizens on the charter.

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The two former opposition MDC parties of Tsvangirai and Industry Minister Welshman Ncube want a qualitative analysis of data saying merely ranking the importance of issues on the number of times they were mentioned would distort the constitution writing exercise. — ZimOnline