But why were people, including senior Zanu PF officials, so quick to dismiss his statement as mere politicking?
One Zanu PF politburo member told the Zimbabwe Independent that people should not read too much into what Mugabe said at the congress.
“It was just politics. Don’t tell me that people took his call for an early election seriously. We don’t want these elections, neither do the two MDCs,” he said.
A number of factors show that elections will not be held any time soon in Zimbabwe.
Most Zimbabweans agree generally that things are getting better under the Global Political Agreement compared to the chaos and violence of 2008 and the years preceding it. Most hope the marriage continues until the economic situation stabilises and there is some guarantee that there is no repeat of the June 27 conditions when close to 200 MDC supporters were killed and thousands were injured and tortured.
But people are also aware that at some point the inclusive government will have to give way to a popularly elected government. According to the Global Political Agreement the government of national unity is supposed to last no more than 24 months but indications are that it is likely to last a full five-year lifespan.
“Let’s begin to work for the party and to organise it strongly. Elections are not very far off,” said Mugabe, adding that “the inclusive government was given a short life — 18 months, 24 months — and then it goes. The remaining part is very short. Perhaps it has outlived its life.”
Analysts say despite such statements, none of the three political leaders are ready for an election within the prescribed 24 months.
An early election, analysts say, would be suicidal for Zanu PF because Mugabe’s party may never regain absolute power after having lost its parliamentary majority, more so now when it is at its most divided on ethnic lines since Independence in 1980.
Former newspaper publisher and political analyst Ibbo Mandaza said it is difficult to take Mugabe seriously because he knows that he cannot afford an election now when Zanu PF is increasingly being weakened by in-fighting over who will succeed him when he decides to eventually step down.
At the moment there seems to be no candidate strong enough to unite the party and challenge MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai.
Mandaza did not see Mugabe getting his party’s endorsement if he decided to stand in the next elections, likely to be held in 2013, by which time he would be 89 years old.
“Don’t get misled,” Mandaza says. “Zanu PF cannot afford elections. Mugabe is deceiving people. He is finished. Everyone in Zanu PF is of the consensus that he must go. Basically, no one is on his side — they just want him to go peacefully. He is history.”
Constitutional lawyer Lovemore Madhuku says Mugabe’s statement should be viewed as nothing but utterances that cannot be taken seriously.
“He is not serious. He is cheating the people. He is just playing a political game wanting to give an impression that his party is the only one with no contention over an early election. They were just utterances because Zanu PF is not ready for an election when it is so weak,” he said.
Deputy Prime Minister Professor Arthur Mutambara and co-chairperson of the constitution-making process Munyaradzi Paul Mangwana are on record saying it was unfair to cut short parliamentarians’ five-year terms. They have both said elections would only be held in 2013.
Madhuku said: “Both Zanu PF and MDC stand to benefit from a prolonged GNU term. MDC still wants time to consolidate resources and its support base.”
It is not only the politicians that are not ready for early elections, but also Zimbabweans who need time to heal; and the economy, which is just starting to improve.
Analysts said Zimbabwe is not going to be ready for elections in the next two years as these are likely to violently disturb the calm and stability that the inclusive government is seeking to achieve.
Mandaza pointed out: “The country does not need an election now and they are most likely to be held in 2013. Neither MDC nor Zanu PF wants an election. Both parties can’t afford an election now. It is just the euphoria — he is excited by crowds and shouting and applause — otherwise why else would he call for an early election?”
Even the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) has suggested that the situation could deteriorate if an early election is called.
OCHA said elections in 24 months could plunge Zimbabwe back into political turmoil and violence as the country’s political parties compete for power.
“Politically general elections expected in 24 months may result in internal competition and renewed violence and human rights abuses as the parties to the inclusive government try gaining popularity by discrediting their rivals,” said OCHA when it announced a US$718 million consolidated appeal for humanitarian support for Zimbabwe a few months ago.
In addition, elections can only be held after comprehensive constitutional reforms. This process was initially supposed to take about 18 months from the inception of the GNU. However, there has been very slow progress due to lack of funds for the constitution-making process, which is already facing a delay of six-months.
If government has been struggling to raise US$11,3 million required for the constitution-making process, what makes Mugabe so confident that he can raise more than US$35 million required for the referendum and millions of other dollars for voter education, registration and compilation of a new voters roll in addition to the delimitation process within the next 24 months.
The next harmonised elections are likely to cost more than the US$43 million allocated for the constitution-making process — which Mugabe never considered when he spoke at the Zanu PF congress.
The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission is broke.
It does not even have money to hold by-elections in at least nine constituencies that fell vacant since last year, violating the constitution which stipulates that an election should be held within 72 days after a seat falls vacant. Some constituencies have not had a representative for more than a year.
The inclusive government has no money to finance most of its activities, let alone an expensive election process.