MOVEMENT for Democratic Change (MDC) leader Morgan Tsvangirai this week painted a gloomy picture of the country if the governing Zanu PF forges ahead with plans to hold the el
ection in March or rigs the outcome.
Addressing delegates at the South African Institute of International Affairs in Johannesburg on Tuesday, Tsvangirai accused the ruling party of pursuing a “violent political culture” that he said was “virulent, backward and distorted”.
He said Zanu PF “brooks no dissent or criticism” of its political agenda.
The opposition leader charged that given the number of reforms needed to ensure a free and fair election, the parliamentary poll should be postponed to June.
“It will take six months for these reforms to have a meaningful impact onthe electoral and political environment,” Tsvangirai said.
“The MDC is therefore advocating that the earliest the elections can take place is the end of June 2005. It is imperative that we get this election right; that all stakeholders are comfortable with the conditions and processes under which the election is held. Another disputed election would be bad news for Zimbabwe and bad news for the region.”
While the opposition leader stated that his party was still caught in a Catch 22 situation over its decision to participate in the poll, he said the possibility of the election being rigged could not be ruled out, given the ruling party’s unpopularity.
“The stepping stone to the new Zimbabwe is a free and fair election,” Tsvangirai said. “The biggest challenge facing Zimbabwe today is to make this happen. People have lost confidence in the electoral process. They have experienced too many fraudulent elections in which their vote has been meaningless. This has to change. The current electoral and political environment precludes a free and fair election.”
Curbs on holding public meetings were also affecting the opposition party’s ability to contest elections, he said. The opposition party also had no access to state media and was therefore severely constrained in its ability to campaign effectively. However, the government has contended that because the opposition has not confirmed its participation in the legislative ballot, it does not qualify for airtime on radio and television.
Tsvangirai commended South Africa’s ruling African National Congress’s recent comments that the MDC should be allowed to hold public meetings without having to apply for permission from the police.
“Any support … is appreciated, but I don’t know whether it will have any impact in the next two months. The government is going full throttle, regardless of comments from outside,” Tsvangirai said.
“Given the public position of Sadc and the AU on governance and democracy, one would have thought the two bodies could put together mechanisms for correction and sanction should a member state deliberately sabotage these noble ideals,” he said.