Mugabe tries to stop SADC backlash with new tune

President Robert Mugabe is desperate to hoodwink the Southern African Development Community (SADC) into believing that he is reforming by, among other things, making a spectacular about-turn on elections and agreeing to the election road map.

Mugabe’s Zanu-PF party has appeared to go against the country’s powerful securocrats and agreed last week to sign the SADC facilitated election road map, although they had spent months announcing that the only election road map they were going to use was the Global Political Agreement (GPA).

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Two weeks ago, the Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe (BAZ) placed an advertisement in the media calling on prospective broadcasters to apply for licences. This is one of the outstanding issues in the GPA.

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Mugabe’s “reforms” are in stark contrast to the position paper, which Zanu-PF took to the SADC summit in Namibia two weeks ago where they demanded elections this year without reforms and said Zimbabwe did not need a new road map to free and fair elections.

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But it is Mugabe’s latest flip-flop on elections, which is seen as a way of avoiding a backlash from SADC leaders, who appear to have lost patience with the 87-year-old leader.

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Speaking to traditional chiefs on Thursday, Mugabe, who has confused the nation and the region by announcing that elections would be held this year and then reversing his statements on several occasions, said elections might be held next year.

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This, despite the fact that his Zanu-PF party, pushed on by the country’s security chiefs, has made it clear that elections would be held this year, where they plan to unleash violence and intimidation to force people to vote for Mugabe and Zanu-PF.

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Mugabe said elections would be held this year or early next year, a clear indication that he wants to appear as if he is implementing not only the GPA but the decisions of the Livingstone, SADC Troika on politics, defence and security reached two months ago.

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He took the opportunity to castigate Finance Minister Tendai Biti whom he said was trying to undermine him in government.

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“Biti is even trying to grab some of the presidential powers in various ways. We now want this GPA to go and this should happen this year.”

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This week’s SADC meeting in Johannesburg is seen as a litmus test for the region’s eagerness to resolve the Zimbabwean crisis.

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Facilitator President Jacob Zuma will present a report to the SADC heads of state, who are expected to endorse the Livingstone report which rebuked Mugabe on violence, arbitrary arrest of opponents and his failure to implement the GPA.

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The meeting comes after a series of brutal attacks on Zuma by Mugabe’s henchman, who accused him and the SADC of being used by the West to effect regime change.

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Human rights researcher Pedzisai Ruhanya dismissed Mugabe’s attempts to pacify the SADC as futile, saying his tricks will not work this time.

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“He is coming up with bogus reforms. What effect are these bogus reforms going to have? He is trying to fool people, the SADC and the world, that he is implementing the GPA, but people now know his tricks.

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“The SADC has had enough. They are aware that he wants to hoodwink them but it will not work. Look at the behaviour of the securocrats – they think running a country is like smoking. SADC should not take these so-called reforms seriously because they mean nothing. Soon after the summit, all these issues will return and we will have achieved nothing.”