A ROW is brewing within the inclusive government over the timing of the next elections and the level of Sadc’s involvement in any such polls as regional leaders increasingly view fresh free and fair polls as the way out of Zimbabwe’s decade-long political stalemate.
President Robert Mugabe has made it clear that he wants early elections with or without a new constitution. Mugabe’s position, which he reflected at this week’s Sadc summit in Namibia, is that elections should immediately follow the referendum of the draft new constitution whose crafting is underway.
The process is expected to be completed in the first quarter of next year.
The Global Political Agreement provides a framework for constitutional reforms that should lay the basis for future credible elections and political stability.
Mugabe wants the coalition government to stick to the GPA roadmap, instead of adopting Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai’s proposal for Sadc to come up with a guideline and framework for the next elections. Mugabe is resisting Sadc’s deep involvement in the elections.
Tsvangirai wants elections, but believes Sadc, guarantors of the GPA, should to play a central monitoring role. The prime minister told diplomats and civil society in separate meetings yesterday that Sadc should be involved in Zimbabwe’s elections.
The issue of elections which was raised at the Sadc summit left the parties and their leaders divided.
While Mugabe wants the elections under the prevailing conditions — without many changes to the status quo and without Sadc’s strong involvement — Tsvangirai wants the elections after the referendum, provided that the conditions for free and fair elections would have been created.
Tsvangirai’s party, MDC-T views the issue of elections which was raised in South African President Jacob Zuma’s report as one of the key outcomes of the Sadc summit. Zuma is Sadc’s facilitator in Zimbabwe.
Zuma’s report, on its section of the Road Ahead, flagged the issue of elections. It said the agreement on outstanding issues and their implementation would “lay the basis for the conviction to grow that Zimbabwe can reach her goal of holding free and fair elections whose results would be acceptable to all”.
“The critical issue is to ensure a sustained focus on developments in Zimbabwe towards elections; the monitoring of the situation and timely interventions to deal with problems as and when they arise,” Zuma said. “Leading to the elections, the inclusive government should be united in its effort to ensure everything is in place for the elections. The constitution-making exercise, as well as the referendum on that constitution, should be a joint task of all parties in the inclusive government.”
Zuma said the inclusive government should find “an uninterrupted path towards free and fair elections and the removal of impediments as and when they arise”. He also said the troika of the organ on politics, defence and security should persuade Sadc to “draw up guidelines for free and fair elections where intimidation and violence would not play any part and where the result of such elections would be credible”.
MDC secretary-general Tendai Biti emphasised Zuma’s report during a press briefing on Wednesday, saying the report was “endorsed and accepted by the full summit”.
However, Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara said the issue of elections was not an important matter as far as Sadc was concerned. He said what was important at the moment was to fully implement the GPA and create conditions for free and fair elections, instead of harping on about elections when the situation on the ground had not changed much.
“The Sadc summit was a victory for the people of Zimbabwe. It was a statement of acknowledgement of the progress Zimbabweans are making in implementing the GPA. All important issues discussed at Sadc are captured in the communiqué. Those that are not in the communiqué are not important at this stage. The issue of elections is not in the communiqué,” Mutambara said.
“Sadc carefully and deliberately crafted that communiqué. It was not an accident. The communiqué only contains resolutions on important issues discussed at the summit. The issue of elections is not there because Sadc did not put any timeframes and dates for dates for elections.
Whoever says or insinuates there will be elections next year is basically peddling lies. Some of these things were discussed by the organ on politics, defence and security but they are not reflected in the communiqué because they are not important. Sadc agreed that this talk about elections and the political tensions created thereof will undermine the implementation of the GPA and thus the prospect of free and fair elections.”
Mutambara said political parties should “avoid playing to the gallery and trying to score cheap and meaningless” on such a “critical issue” as elections.
“Sadc did not decide anything on elections; the issue was discussed by the troika but no timeframes were put. Let’s not try to score political points by creating unmitigated confusion over such a clear issue. The question in Zimbabwe is not when should the next elections be held but what will be the conditions, the quality and credibility of those elections. The Sadc communiqué clearly captures what happened at the summit. Political parties can have their opinions but that should not be confused with the Sadc position which is clearly stated in the communiqué.”
While the parties fight over what Sadc resolved about elections in Zimbabwe, there are also serious problems within the parties over the polls.
Informed sources told the Zimbabwe Independent that even though Mugabe and Tsvangirai want elections, their party officials and structures were resisting.
Sources said most senior Zanu PF officials and MPs were against Mugabe’s position on the need for an early election because they fear he might lose again. The sources say even the Joint Operations Command, which brings together army, police and intelligence chiefs, and was instrumental in Mugabe’s disputed re-election, is not convinced by Mugabe’s push for early elections.
Although Zuma said Sadc wanted free and fair elections in Zimbabwe, the decision on the timing of the polls would be decided government’s principals.
Biti told journalists this week that there was no timeframe set at the summit but that an election was a process and there certain reforms that needed to put in place before credible, free and fair elections are held.
“The summit did not define in terms of dates but in terms of sign posts and landmarks. First there has to be the constitution-making process, then the referendum,” he said. “The other sign posts is to have a fresh voters roll and we have to do the delimitation – all these things take a long time and are small bits that lead to decisive dates of elections. There is also need for national healing.”
Mutambara said harping on the issue of elections instead of creating conditions for free and fair elections first was counterproductive.
MDC-M secretary-general Welshman Ncube said pronouncements on polls was misplaced because there was no-one at the summit spoke about elections in 2011. He said elections would only be held after the full implementation of the GPA, which would ensure conditions for free and fair elections. Realistically, parties agree that it would appear as if the elections would be held in 2013 although they do not want to say it in public.