CIVIL society organisations have backed MDC leader Morgan Tsvangiraiâ€™s decision to pull out of todayâ€™s presidential election run-off against President Robert Mugabe saying this will save Zimbabweansâ€™ lives and make the regime illegitimate.
The civil society leaders said the election, if held, was going to be a sham and one of the worst the country has held since Independence from Britain in 1980.
The MDC pulled out of the run-off polls after citing ongoing violence against its supporters and a non-conducive environment for campaigning.
National Constitutional Assembly (NCA) chairperson, Lovemore Madhuku, said civil society in Zimbabwe has always been clear that no free and fair elections would take place under the current constitution.
The MDC decision, he said, reflects the civic organisationsâ€™ position.
“As civil society we have always said elections held under the current Zimbabwe Constitution will not be free and fair and what Zimbabwe needs is a new constitution that will guarantee free and fair elections are held under independent electoral bodies,” Madhuku said.
He said the MDC decision to pull out of the presidential run-off election was commendable as the countdown to the poll turned out to be a farce due to the violence and intimidation of opposition supporters by Zanu PF militias.
“The pulling out of the MDC is very important as it means that violence against Zimbabweans will stop and under the circumstances, the MDC had no choice except to pull out,” Madhuku added.
Christian Alliance, a grouping of churches in the country, said it supported the decision by the opposition to withdraw from the race as violence was reaching unprecedented levels countrywide.
“As Christians we support the decision by the opposition to pull out of the presidential run-off as it was made with people at heart,” the allianceâ€™s national coordinator Useni Sibanda said. “There is a lot of violence going on and if the decision will stop the violence we then support the decision.”
Gorden Moyo, the director for Bulawayo Agenda, a local political think tank, said the decision to withdraw would further isolate Mugabe, as the international community will not recognise an election held without the opposition participating.
“The MDC decision to pull out of the presidential run-off is the best under the circumstances and if President Mugabe goes ahead and conducts the presidential run-off without any challenger he will be further isolated, even by Sadc, and the international community,” Moyo said.
He said the majority of Zimbabweans were eager to vote in a free and fair election where their vote would not be stolen.
“Zimbabweans really wanted to vote, but with the prevailing violence there was no way the MDC could have participated in a free and fair poll,” Moyo said.
“The MDC withdrawal from the polls has plunged the entire Zanu PF campaign strategy into turmoil as they had spent a fortune in printing campaign materials, paying the youths to brutally campaign for the party. All this will amount to nothing if the opposition does not take part in the polls,” Moyo said.
Tsvangirai, who defeated Mugabe in the first round in March and remained favourite to win the run-off poll despite political violence against his supporters, announced he was pulling out of the election because a free and fair vote was impossible because of widespread political violence countrywide.
Crisis Coalition, a grouping of civil society organisations in Zimbabwe, also backed the MDC decision.
“The MDC should now urge Sadc to ensure that free and fair elections are guaranteed because even if Mugabe proceeds with the polls and declares himself the winner nothing will change his illegitimate status in the eyes of the whole world,” said Macdonald Lewanika, the organisationâ€™s spokesperson.
But Madhuku said the MDC pullout from the presidential run-off should not end there and encouraged the opposition to pull out its elected MPs from the House of Assembly and the Senate to complete the process.
“The MDC should complete the process by also withdrawing its legislators from parliament, as taking up the positions will be endorsing President Mugabeâ€™s illegitimate rule,” Madhuku said.
The MDC says about 85 of its activists and officials have been killed since the March 29 elections. The MDC further claimed that about 200 000 of its supporters have been displaced while plus 10 000 have sustained serious injuries due to violence perpetrated by Zanu-PF and state-sponsored militias.
By Loughty Dube