â€œOH God, not again,â€ exclaimed Harare resident Tendai Zvipo after hearing from fellow Zanu PF supporters that President Robert Mugabe said the party should be ready for fresh elections if an inclusive government that he agreed to with the two MDC formations fails.
Mugabe made the pronouncement last week when he addressed Zanu PF supporters gathered at the partyâ€™s headquarters ahead of an extra-ordinary session of the politburo.
Zvipo had a picture in her mind of violence, intimidation, abductions, delays in announcement of results, and above all a run-off.
Her friends who were among the supporters addressed by Mugabe seemed to be content with the presidentâ€™s announcement and were waiting for a signal from him to start mobilising support for Zanu PF.
One of Zvipoâ€™s friends blamed MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai for the political and economic crisis in the country that has seen the Zimbabwe dollar crash against major currencies, cash shortages and poor service delivery.
â€œIf the need be for an election we will be prepared,â€ one of the friends said. â€œThis time, unlike during the negotiations, VaMugabe vanenge vari kwavo and Tsvangirai kwake (Mugabe will be at his own side and Tsvangirai at his own as well).â€
In his address, Mugabe challenged the MDC-T to come out clearly whether they wanted to be part of the unity government or, if not, Zanu PF could go it alone and form the next government.
He said the country could go for elections in the next two years if the inclusive government fails to work.
â€œWe agreed to give them 13 ministries while we share the Ministry of Home Affairs, but if the arrangement fails to work in the next one and a half year to two years then we would go for elections,â€ Mugabe said.Â â€œThe MDC should say no if they do not want to be part of an inclusive government.â€
But the questions that ring in Zvipoâ€™s mind are: will the proposed elections solve the current problems that Zimbabweans are facing.
Do we still need the elections? Will the polls not be characterised by violence like what happened in the countdown to the June 27 presidential election run-off, which left a number of people dead, thousands of families displaced and thousands more seriously injured.
The level of political violence sent jitters down the spine of many Zimbabweans when they hear of new elections.
Political analysts this week said it would not be ideal to have fresh elections if the establishment of an inclusive government fails.
Â They said the polls would only be relevant if conducted in a democratic way and after the crafting and enactment of a people-driven constitution.
Lawyer and political commentator Alex Magaisa said the most ideal way forward might be an internationally supervised election to solve the political crisis once and for all.
Magaisa said: â€œBut having said that, such a scenario is very unlikely not least because Mugabe knows he would not win an election in Zimbabwe whatever the time of day.
â€œWhen he speaks of elections, it is more likely the same charade that the world saw on June 27 and worse, the violence and abductions that have resumed are ominous signs of whatâ€™s likely to come. Mugabe might say he wants an election, but such a contest is likely to be the same as all the sham elections we have seen so far and it will solve absolutely nothing.â€
Political analyst Eldred Masunungure was of the view that elections were not going to solve Zimbabweâ€™s problems, especially if they were to be held under the same circumstances as the previous election in June.
â€œNo, not under the circumstances because the dispute over the controversial elections that led to the signing of the agreement has not been addressed,â€ Masunungure said. â€œThe circumstances are still where they are. We have to remove the thorn before elections can be held.â€
He said if the elections were to be held they should be conducted under a people- driven constitution.
â€œZimbabweans have to make their constitution and this will drive the elections. Otherwise a credible or fair outcome under the present electoral framework will not be possible to produce. Violence is likely to resurface and this will only deepen and prolong problems in the country,â€ Masunungure added.
But Zimbabwe-born South Africa-based businessman Mutumwa Mawere was of the opinion that Zimbabweans were more wary of the future with no political consensus.
â€œThe inclusive government agreement has failed to create a centre of political gravity and every democrat accepts that an election can provide a better instrument for allocating political power,â€ Mawere said. â€œIn the circumstances, there appears to be no alternative than to go for another election.â€
While Mugabe showed his willingness to take part in fresh elections, the United States and Western countries have since last week been breathing fire demanding the immediate removal of Mugabe from power.
On Tuesday, US President George Bush urged African leaders to step up and â€œjoin the growing chorus of voices for an end to Mugabeâ€™s tyrannyâ€.
He added: â€œIt is time for Robert Mugabe to go.â€
Bush said the US would continue to work with its partners around the world to halt the violence and stem the humanitarian disaster that the Mugabe regime was inflicting on its people.
â€œWe stand ready to help rebuild Zimbabwe once a legitimate government has been formed that reflects the results of the March elections.â€
The European Union (EU) also called for Mugabeâ€™s ouster with French president and current president of the 27-member club Nicolas Sarkozy accusing the 84-year-old leader of holding Zimbabweans hostage.
â€œI say today President Mugabe must go. Zimbabwe has suffered enough,â€ said Sarkozy.
Kenyaâ€™s Prime Minister Raila Odinga last weekend challenged the African Union (AU) to deploy a peacekeeping force to Zimbabwe.
He said: â€œIf no troops are available, then the AU must allow the UN to send its forces into Zimbabwe with immediate effect, to take over control of the country and ensure urgent humanitarian assistance to the people dying of cholera.â€
However, the AU rejected the tough calls on Zimbabwe, while Information minister Sikhanyiso Ndlovu said Mugabe was going nowhere.
â€œI donâ€™t have kind words for all heads of state who have made utterances against Zimbabwe one by one, and I hope this is the last time they open their dirty mouths on Zimbabwe,â€ Ndlovu said.
The spokesperson for AU chairman and Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete, Salva Rweyemamu, said: â€œOnly dialogue between the Zimbabwean parties, supported by the AU and other regional actors can restore peace and stability to that country.
â€œWe have a serious humanitarian crisis in Zimbabwe. We have cholera. Do they think that we can eradicate cholera with guns?â€
The United Nations said as of December 9, the death toll from cholera in the country has risen to 746, with 15 572 suspected cases reported across the country.
Masunungure said it was not easy to push for the removal of Mugabe.
â€œAgitating for the departure of Mugabe is problematic especially if AU and Sadc are against the stance of the Western countries. However, to a certain extent it would exert pressure on Mugabe and the regime and soften them on their move of taking all the juicy ministries,â€ said Masunungure.
â€œFor the moment, the political limbo is bound to continue for the next few weeks. There is no sense of direction and itâ€™s difficult to predict where Zimbabwe is going. Things will perhaps be clearer after the Zanu PF conference.â€ Â
BY WONGAI ZHANGAZHA