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Forget talks – Mugabe

Dumisani Muleya

PRESIDENT Robert Mugabe has told his ruling Zanu PF to forget talks with the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) and railroad the proposed electoral reforms before next year’s gen

eral election.

Zanu PF sources said Mugabe told his party’s decision-making politburo last week on Wednesday that there was effectively no point to engage the MDC further because informal dialogue has so far failed to yield anything useful. He is also understood to have also indicated there was no time for renewed inter-party talks anymore because the election was forthcoming.

The politburo met on September 29. The party’s secretary for commissariat, Elliot Manyika, presented a report on the Seke by-election, the imminent Masvingo by-election, Women’s League’s recent congress and party restructuring. There was also a discussion of strategies of winning next year’s election.

Sources said Zanu PF secretary for legal affairs and head of talks with the MDC, Patrick Chinamasa, and other heavyweights initially thought it was better to try to engage the opposition again but Mugabe was against it.

Chinamasa was then mandated to bulldoze the reforms – to be ushered through the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) Bill and the Electoral Bill – with or without the MDC support.

Following the reopening of parliament on Tuesday, Chinamasa introduced the ZEC Bill on Wednesday and is said to be ready to push the Electoral Bill which expected to be gazetted either today or next week.

The ZEC Bill will establish a purportedly independent electoral body, which will run all elections, voting in one day instead of two, use of transparent ballot boxes and counting of ballots at polling centres.

The introduction of the ZEC will add to the existing bodies, the Electoral Supervisory Commission (ESC), Election Directorate, Registrar General of Elections’ Office and the Delimitation Commission, which all deal with elections.

Government will also introduce the Electoral Bill to amend the Electoral Act.

This Bill will establish constituency centres, an Electoral Court to deal with election disputes, a Registrar-General of Voters office and discard mobile polling stations. It will limit postal votes, which have been a subject of dispute, to uniformed forces and people working on government service.

The MDC has dismissed the reforms as cosmetic, saying they do not address fundamental electoral problems. It said the changes simply fall far too short of the Southern African Development Community principles governing democratic elections.

However, Zanu PF is said to be determined to proceed unilaterally. This will further impede South African President Thabo Mbeki’s attempt to resolve the Zimbabwe crisis.

Mbeki has of late been stepping up his efforts to prevent another disputed election and its consequences to Zimbabwe and the region. He said recently he was prepared to travel to Zimbabwe everyday, if need be, to deal with the crisis.

After meeting Mbeki on September 21 in New York at the UN General Assembly summit to discuss the Zimbabwe crisis, Mugabe has however been pulling in the opposite direction.

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