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Editor’s Memo

MDC must tread with caution

By Vincent Kahiya

THE year 2008 carries with it a lot of hope for suffering Zimbabweans. The list of trials and tribulations endured in the past year by ordinary citizen is long and unbearable


In the past year Zimbabweans across the social and political divide have had to contend with shortages of literally every basic commodity or service. Countrymen have scrounged for everything from drinking water to medicine.

As the festive season approached the country ran out of cash as the effects of hyperinflation and speculative activities caught the central bank governor and his team flat-footed. In his New Year message, MDC president Morgan Tsvangirai summarised the year 2007 as the worst year ever imagined by Zimbabweans.

It is true that in the previous year compatriots have demonstrated a great deal of courage, endurance and resilience in the face of these state-sponsored hardships. But it’s also true that President Robert Mugabe’s continued brinksmanship has stretched our patience to the limit. Lives continue to be lost amid a paralysis in the health delivery system — a direct result of the dictatorship.

We reiterate that the salvation of all Zimbabweans rests in a free election in 2008 under a new constitution.

But I see a tragic situation developing ahead of March. President Mugabe and the Zanu PF regime insist on an election within the next 90 days even before the Sadc-initiated inter-party talks have been concluded in Pretoria.

The MDC has already indicated that an unhelpful development has started to creep in resulting in a deadlock on key issues. Zanu PF has begun backtracking on some of the agreed points and is determined to go it alone. According to the opposition party the main sticking points are a transitional constitution and the election date.

While the MDC is insisting on a having a new constitution before the harmonised elections Zanu PF wants the constitution to be commissioned after the elections. The MDC has also called for the postponement of the election to June in order to give ample time to the transitional phase from the status quo through the implementation of precepts agreed to during the talks. On the contrary, President Mugabe has declared that elections will be in March come rain or sunshine.

The MDC must tread with caution and diligently weigh the options available to it as we approach this delicate phase of our politics.

There are three likely scenerios as we draw closer to the political face off whose ramifications are far reaching for the political parties and the citizens alike. The first scenario may see President Mugabe and his ruling party taking their brinksmanship to another level by insisting on having the elections in March and having a new constitution after the election.

The second scenario may see Zanu PF agreeing to the postponement of elections but refusing to budge on a transitional constitution. This is possible but unlikely because of a number of critical reasons.

The third scenario, which is also very unlikely, may see Mugabe agreeing to demands by the MDC for a transitional constitution and elections postponed to June.

It is the first scenario that is most likely to carry the day if one reads the President Mugabe’s public statements and Zanu PF’s body language as we lumber closer to the crunch election.

Because of President Mugabe’s arrogance and his overrated popularity the Zanu PF government is likely resolve to go it alone in the event that the current deadlock persists.

It must be crystal clear to all in the MDC that the 2008 general plebiscite is no child’s play.

These elections carry the potential consequence of regime change and consigning the founding fathers of independent Zimbabwe to the dustbin of history.

The prospect of becoming the new government this year for the MDC poses the practical risk of losing power for the increasingly paranoid Mugabe and his ruling party.

For President Mugabe and his regime losing this year’s elections has grave implications given their notorious history and human rights record since 1980.

The MDC must appreciate that the political stakes in this plebiscite are extremely high and those who intend to be part of this contest must be equal to the task. Jonathan Moyo captured the attitude of the ruling party when he said “any ruling party that agrees to opposition demands for a new constitution before a general election exposes itself to assured electoral defeat”. Zanu PF is alive to the fact that the reason why it has remained in power until today is because of the flawed Lancaster House constitution which gives President Mugabe the executive powers to rig elections.

Mugabe is not keen on doing away with a constitution that gives him the unfair but crucial advantage of being both player and referee in all electoral contests and legislating himself out of power.

The Zanu PF government is also aware that postponing elections to June will give the fractured MDC enough time to unify and adequately prepare for the watershed polls. It is clear that President Mugabe is more comfortable going into the elections with a divided MDC because this translates into a divided vote which is a natural advantage to Zanu PF.

We read that the MDC maintains that an election is impossible in the next 100 days if its demands are not met. Zanu PF must not be allowed to steal another election and prolong the suffering of the masses by getting away with a rigged election.

We hope that the opposition is committed to this position and will not dither at the last minute. We also believe that in making this position public the MDC leadership has consulted widely both within its ranks and outside. Indeed, the MDC must refuse to engage in a ritual to legitimise Mugabe through a flawed election.

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