HomeBusiness DigestCandid Comment: What Elections Mr President?

NSSA: Looking at the bigger picture

ZANU PF’s ineffectual congress ended on Saturday with party president and first secretary Robert Mugabe rallying members to brace for early national elections.

In a dissembling act, the octogenarian leader made a lot of claims, among them that the life of the inclusive government should end in 24 months from its inception in February and that the current economic turnaround was spearheaded solely by Zanu PF.

Mugabe and his party also had the cheek to exhibit to the whole world their intransigence on the resolution of outstanding issues, with Mugabe vowing there would never be reforms of the security services.

The global political agreement (GPA) that gave birth to the inclusive government did not prescribe the lifespan of the government, but outlined the path towards free and fair elections.

The roadmap is the constitution-making process which has now been thrown off the rails by several months because of intra-party fighting on the proper course to take and lack of funding from the treasury.

In terms of the GPA the constitution-making process should be completed within 18 months from the formation of the unity government. This does not necessarily mean elections would have to follow soon.

Zanu PF’s five-day talk shop resolved: “Congress has noted that the inclusive government brings the party into partnership with ideologically incompatible MDC formations from which it must extricate itself in order to retain its mantle as the only dominant and ascendant political party that is truly representative and determined to safeguard the aspirations of the people of Zimbabwe.”

And this can be achieved through early polls, Mugabe opined at the congress.

The three principals to the GPA –– Mugabe, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and his deputy Arthur Mutambara –– would have to sit around the negotiating table and agree on the way forward.

Given the political and economic situation in the country, there is no way Mugabe, Tsvangirai and Mutambara would consent to early polls because it is not to any of the trio’s advantage. There is no doubt that Mugabe was politicking at the congress!

There is no way, in my view, that Mugabe and Mutambara would want early polls because they will obviously be thrashed by Tsvangirai and his MDC-T.

Zanu PF needs to buy time to revive its party structures and woo supporters; at the same time hoping MDC-T blunders in government by failing to run the social ministries it was allocated.

Mutambara and his party will not support early elections. They will be comfortable to enjoy the trappings of office and power until 2013 when elections are legally due.

In fact Mutambara has since made it public that he wants the unity government to remain in force for an unspecified period.

In Tsvangirai’s case, the former firebrand trade unionist is, in my view, guaranteed electoral victory even if the polls were to be held tomorrow, 2013 or 2015, but he is not sure if power would be handed over to him if security reforms are not undertaken before the elections.

It has not been disputed that securocrats last year blocked Mugabe from quitting government after losing the first round of the presidential election to Tsvangirai and plotted the bloody campaign to retain the presidency.

Those in the know in the MDC say Tsvangirai is afraid of a repeat and that is why he is pushing for security reforms which would, among other things, result in the easing out of army generals, police commanders and top spies who have publicly announced their political preferences.

Why is Mugabe in a rush to dissociate himself and his party from Tsvangirai who gave him legitimacy by agreeing to enter the inclusive government?

It is also not prudent to hold the elections 30 months after emerging from a bloody presidential run-off poll where perpetrators of heinous crimes are still roaming the streets and villages of the country.

The electorate is wary of early polls and would need time to heal from what they went through and witnessed last year when alleged security agents, Zanu PF militia and war veterans unleashed an orgy of violence throughout the country.

The MDC claims that at least 200 of its supporters were murdered and thousands injured and displaced during the jambanja to secure the presidency for Mugabe.

On the economic front, the country cannot afford to finance the constitution-making referendum and elections within 24 months of the formation of the inclusive government given that it is just emerging from a vegetative state.

The constitution-making process will determine whether we will retain a bicameral parliament or not, the number of constituencies in the country, and the authority to register and run elections.

The draft constitution would be subject to a plebiscite and if adopted voter registration will take place followed by a delimitation of constituencies. All these processes would need huge sums of money the country does not have.

International donors can only chip in if indeed a people-driven constitution has been crafted, but given squabbles on the process for the greater part of the year, it is highly unlikely that the country will end up with a democratic supreme law.

Mugabe’s pronouncement that the current economic stability was a result of his party’s “pre-inclusive budget which ushered in multiple currency” cannot go unchallenged.

While it is not in dispute that then acting Finance minister Patrick Chinamasa officially announced multi-currencies, what is questionable was the efficacy of the policy.

It is common cause that Mugabe’s regime, through the “supreme” leader’s hanger-on Gideon Gono, introduced Foreign Exchange Licensed Warehouses and Shops that transacted in multi-currencies but the supply of services and goods remained depressed.

Even after Chinamasa’s announcement in January, shops remained empty and the bankrupt government wanted to pay civil servants in foreign-denominated coupons.

It was only after the inclusive government was formed that confidence in the economy started building, hard currency to pay civil servants became available and prices of goods and services became affordable.

The 85-year-old Mugabe should know that he cannot just wish away Tsvangirai, his MDC-T and the inclusive government. If he has the guts, he should call for polls tomorrow –– and start writing his political epitaph!

 

Constantine Chimakure

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