WHILE South African President Jacob Zuma is reportedly pushing for elections as early as April 2011, most Zimbabweans, including the feuding three political parties, are not ready, politicians and analysts have said.
The analysts said statements from Zanu PF and the MDC-T calling for fresh polls next year were political gimmicks.
An early election, the analysts said, would be suicidal for Zanu PF because President Robert Mugabe’s party may never regain absolute power after having lost its parliamentary majority, especially now when it is deeply divided.
The MDC-T feels that a new constitution must be crafted first, followed by creating an environment that will guarantee security of people, freedom to campaign, and media and electoral reforms before Zimbabwe can hold elections that are credible, free and fair.
Zimbabweans want a guarantee that there will not be a repeat of the June 27 2008 period, during which more than 300 MDC supporters were allegedly killed, thousands tortured, injured and displaced by state security agents, Zanu PF militia and war veterans.
They said people would only heal if justice is done to perpetrators of violence during the 2008 elections, while others said government should set up a truth and reconciliation commission for people to publicly admit their crimes.
Nothing has been done to those who raped, tortured, assaulted and killed opponents and they are still freely roaming the streets and villages throughout the country, leading a normal life.
According to a report titled Fighting for a New Constitution: Human Rights Violations Experienced by Female Members of the National Constitutional Assembly (NCA) launched last week in Harare, 90% of the women interviewed said a truth and reconciliation commission should be established and 98% were of the opinion that people who committed violence against women should be prosecuted.
While the situation has improved under the global political agreement (GPA) compared to the chaotic and violent 2008, Zimbabweans argue that elections should be held after achieving national healing.
Although they are aware that at some point, the inclusive government will have to give way to a popularly elected government, people feel that time cannot be 2011.
The Zimbabwe Independent spoke to MPs from the three political parties to get people’s views on early elections.
Legislators interviewed agreed that national healing should be prioritised before elections are held.
The legislators said Zimbabweans were concerned about bread and butter issues and would prefer to see the economy improve first before elections are held.
Zanu PF MP for Mudzi South, Eric Navaya, said: “Because of the drought and low incomes, people are not thinking about elections. They are more concerned about making money to feed their families and about service delivery.
“Where will government get money from for elections when they can’t even raise enough to improve service delivery and to pay their workers?
Zanu PF MP for Mazowe South, Margaret Zinyemba, said national healing should come first before elections.
“At leadership level, we have come to tolerate each other and we understand each other, but this has not filtered down to the grassroots where people are still looking at each other with suspicion,” she said. “National healing should have come first. They should set up committees to assist the three ministers (of national healing) because the ministers alone cannot do it. National healing should be taken as the most important thing –– until people are healed, there cannot be elections.”
Navaya said areas that experienced high incidents of violence in 2008 should be given time to heal before elections can be held.
“National healing is extremely important. These areas need to be given time for national healing to avoid more violence in future,” he said.
Harison Mudzuri, MDC-T MP for Zaka Central, said government was not doing enough to ensure national healing took place.
Mudzuri criticised the manner in which the ministers of national healing were conducting their meetings, which he pointed out did not give victims of violence a chance to narrate their ordeals.
He said such meetings should be done in such a way that those people who committed politically motivated crimes should be able to publicly confess.
“The term national healing should be done in the same way as South Africa conducted its truth and reconciliation hearings. This thing of let’s forget and forgive is not what people want,” Mudzuri said. “We are not doing enough in terms of national healing – it is far below what people are expecting. Reports in the media that they had a meeting here and there is not what people want. People want to see victims narrating their experiences, crying and expressing their emotions. People need to experience it.”
In addition, Mudzuri said people would be ready for polling if there were guarantees that they would be free and fair and also non-violent.
“People need proof that they are going to be violence-free and that people who committed those crimes are being arrested and that something is being done to stop violence,” he said.
As the government embarks on the constitution-making process, Mudzuri said people in rural areas were being intimidated to support the Kariba draft.
“There is also violence being done in a subtle manner in terms of intimidation. People are being told that they will be beaten up after the elections if Zanu PF loses and are being told to support the Kariba draft or else,” he said.
Already, there have been several reports of violence in some parts of the country. The Victims Action Committee (VAC), Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition, and the Restoration of Human Rights Zimbabwe said some churches were being persecuted for political reasons.
VAC said 28 people, including 10 children under the age of 12 and two teenagers, were last Wednesday forced to flee their homes in Shamva after being threatened with violence.
A Zanu PF supporter allegedly threatened to descend on them with a group of youths at night to destroy their homes for being MDC supporters.
VAC said the families are now squatting in nearby bushes with no access to food, water and shelter.
Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition and Restoration of Human Rights Zimbabwe reported that Zanu PF supporters burnt down an Apostolic Faith Mission Church building in Muzarabani before threatening villagers there with violence.
About 55 people have since fled their homes to seek refuge at St Albert’s business centre.
Meanwhile, Energy and Power Development minister Elias Mudzuri experienced the intimidation first hand about a fortnight ago when youths yielding machetes and knobkerries tried to bar him from addressing villagers in Zanu PF’s stronghold Uzumba Maramba Pfungwe.
Press reports said youths aligned to Zanu PF set up roadblocks to stop people from going to Mashambanhaka and Katiyo clinics where Mudzuri was expected to commission electricity.
Mudzuri was quoted later saying: “I was shocked to see youths stopping vehicles and demanding answers to ridiculous questions. We all know Uzumba Maramba and Pfungwe (UMP) are Zanu PF strongholds and people in this area have been brutalised and are still very afraid. But at this stage in this time we do not expect this.
He added that: “I went there prepared for such an eventuality because we are aware that UMP is a difficult place in terms of intimidation. It is this culture of impunity that makes Zanu PF militia take the law into their own hands.”
The government must now walk the talk on national healing and in promoting non-violence, civics say.
Articles XVIII of the GPA says “the government shall apply laws of the country fully and impartially in bringing all perpetrators of politically motivated violence to book”.
Until this is done, politically motivated violence will continue to escalate, particularly now as the country embarks on the constitution-making process and as they prepare for fresh elections.
By Faith Zaba