Zanu PF struggling to articulate position ahead of SADC Summit – Analysts

JOHANNESBURG– The embattled former ruling party Zanu PF has again dismissed claims by the Movement for Democratic Change led by Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangira that the prevailing situation in Zimbabwe is not suitable for elections, amid reports by media experts that the party has already lost ground on the general consensus.

In a statement, Zanu PF Secretary for Information and Publicity, who some sources say is under fire for failing to articulate the party’s message Rugare Gumbo said elections cannot be delayed because MDC-T is not ready and is making frivolous claims of violence when there is peace in the country.

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Gumbo said the 3 principals to the Global Political Agreement, GPA have already agreed on the key appointments to the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission which will then consider staff hiring but not the political parties which might have hidden agendas.

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The MDC-T says they want fresh reappointments and removal of members of the Central Intelligence Organisation and military officers in civilian suits.

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Gumbo said the constitution making process is one year behind schedule and should be concluded by September so that elections can be held.

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H said the constitution making process was what he called a delay by the Minister of Finance, Tendai Biti who he accused of deliberately and also accused donors of refusing to release the necessary funding.

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Zanu PF is insisting that election observers and not monitors be invited from outside Zimbabwe and this be done not more than 4 weeks before the elections but the MDC formations’ are all calling for monitors to be deployed 6 months before and six months after the elections.

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Gumbo said Zimbabwe as a sovereign state has the right to decide on whom to invite to observe its own elections adding that any foreign pressure to influence the choice of observers or monitors to participate in the forthcoming elections would be a violation of both SADC guidelines and the Zimbabwean constitution.

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Meanwhile, a media expert based in Pretoria said Zanu PF is struggling to articulate its message beyond holding on to the narrow issue of sovereignty and a GPA agreement it has violated so many times.

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Another analyst praised the loyal MDC-T media infrastructure which he said is putting up a formidable fight on its behalf.

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Southern African leaders meet this weekend in Johannesburg to lay out a roadmap to elections in Zimbabwe, amid warnings of rising violence and intimidation, officials said Thursday.

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Leaders in the 15-country Southern African Development Community (SADC) are to meet on Saturday evening, the South African foreign ministry said.

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They will consider a report by SADC’s security “troika”, which at a March meeting in Zambia lashed out at President Robert Mugabe’s failure to make reforms paving the way for elections.

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In an unusually harsh communiqué, it also denounced political violence and intimidation, echoing concerns raised by Mugabe’s rival, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai.

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“We expect the summit to adopt the report of the troika in Livingstone. The findings of the troika were correct and impeccable,” said Douglas Mwonzora, spokesman for Tsvangirai’s Movement for Democratic Change (MDC).

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“We also expect a clear roadmap towards free and fair elections. Zimbabwe must never again have elections that don’t produce credible results and credible leadership,” he told AFP.

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The MDC says more than 200 of its supporters were killed after Zimbabwe’s failed 2008 presidential run-off, when Tsvangirai pulled out in protest at the violence, handing Mugabe a one-sided victory.

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SADC then pressured Mugabe into accepting a unity government with Tsvangirai, which was meant to draft a new constitution to ensure political and human rights reforms before fresh elections.

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The constitution, which is to be approved by referendum, is now a year behind schedule, but Mugabe’s ZANU-PF party still insists on elections for this year.

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“It is 12 months behind schedule and should be concluded as soon as possible so that new elections are held this year,” ZANU-PF spokesman Rugare Gumbo said in a statement.

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“It is a fact that the three parties to the GPA (global political agreement) failed to work together as a team for the development of the country,” he said.

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Mugabe, who at 87 is Africa’s oldest leader, has already announced his candidacy.

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But Tsvangirai says elections are impossible for this year, and some factions within ZANU-PF have taken the unusual step of publicly questioning the wisdom of a rush to the polls.

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Elections monitors say the voters roll is in shambles. About one-third of the people on it are dead. Some voters are listed with birthdates in the 1890s, others are listed as born last year, the Zimbabwe Election Support Network says.

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Finance Minister Tendai Biti, a Tsvangirai ally, says there is no money for elections this year. Central Bank governor Gideon Gono, from Mugabe’s camp, says quick polls would scare off desperately needed investors.

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The summit could settle the debate over the election date by laying out a timeline for finishing the constitution while looking to curb political violence and intimidation.

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Amnesty International has condemned Mugabe’s party for orchestrating a wave of attacks on Tsvangirai supporters, with the complicity of police.

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The summit Saturday will take place in Johannesburg on the eve of free trade talks among 26 African nations.

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Tsvangirai will attend the talks, Mwonzora said. Mugabe rarely reveals his travel schedule in advance, but he routinely attends such meetings.

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Simeon Mawanza, Amnesty International’s researcher for Zimbabwe, said the key would be for SADC to create an oversight mechanism to ensure that Mugabe complies with the region’s demands.

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“SADC’s credibility is at stake, if it ensures the region’s commitment to human rights and the region’s own standards for running elections,” he said.