The facilitators’ report mentioned a fundamental issue concerning a roadmap to Zimbabwe’s next general elections. The general implication of this report was that, in order to resolve the political impasse in Zimbabwe, there should be free and fair elections. This is a position which very few would refute as democratic political fact because the last general national election in Zimbabwe gave birth to what is now considered an inclusive government which, by and large, should only be considered as transitional.
The Sadc communique that followed the presentation of the facilitators’ report, as predicted by many analysts, did not make direct reference to the contentious issue of elections nor did it give any timeframe within which they should be held outside of the framework of the global political agreement (GPA).
In fact, Sadc recommitted itself to what has come to be viewed as an adage. It reemphasised the GPA as the functional framework through which a free and fair election can be held with the assistance of regional and continental bodies. The protagonists within the GPA had varied responses to this resolution of Sadc, especially in its aftermath. Zanu PF, through its leader Robert Mugabe, insisted that this articulation of an electoral roadmap by Sadc was not a fundamental departure from Article 6 of the GPA, an article that places the Constitutional Parliamentary Committee (Copac) at the centre of any electoral roadmap for Zimbabwe.
The stronger Movement for Democratic Change led by, Morgan Tsvangirai, insisted that contrary to Article 6 of the GPA being the mainstay of any electoral roadmap for Zimbabwe, it has new benchmarks for the achievements of the same. These would ostensibly include a potential negation of the GPA and an acceptance of the long implied fact that Zimbabwe requires a clearly legitimate and majority government via a free and fair election. The MDC led by Arthur Mutambara insists there is no urgency for elections, let alone an immediate roadmap for the same outside of the GPA.
The truth of the matter is that any roadmap for elections within the next 18 months is dangerous business for the country and by default to the three main political parties that comprise the GPA. It is risky for the country primarily because there is no fundamental agreement on elections between the protagonists of the GPA and due to limited concern from Sadc. The fact that there is no agreed framework for the elections next year between the two MDCs and Zanu PF essentially points to the fact that there will be no shift from the electoral culture and practice of March or June 2008.
For the country it would mean we would not only be back to where we started, but the political stakes and brinkmanship would be much higher than we would expect. The nature and character of such a political campaign for power would not only be similar in narrative and fashion to what occurred in 2008, but it would also defeat the whole purpose of having formed an inclusive government in the first place. This is especially to the chagrin and embarrassment of Sadc.
The call for an election next year would also be problematic for Zanu PF because it remains, for all its efforts, particularly unpopular with the electorate to the extent that it knows it cannot win any free and fair election in which Sadc would have a supervisory role. Some may argue that Sadc has been a toothless bulldog, which one may consider a fair argument. It would however be wise to advise that despite all forms of accusations against it, Sadc would never allow a repeat of June 2008 and therefore is not firmly on Zanu PF’s side.
This essentially means that a general election next year would, for Zanu PF, be the equivalent of tempting fate.
As for the Tsvangirai MDC faction, any decision to support the holding of a general election in 2011 in terms of a new roadmap would have the impression of a negation of the GPA altogether. It would be the equivalent of not only a pullout from the inclusive government but also from the Copac process as defined in Article 6 of the GPA. This would again mean the three protagonists would be back to square one or, alternatively, back to February 2008 – a scenario that would point to the potential repetition of history in two years.
The MDC Mutambara’s vested interests would be in not seeking an earlier election. This agenda would be based on the fact that they are neither as popular nor ready for an election for the same reason. In any event they have actively sought the avoidance of an electoral roadmap that seeks an election in 2011 not, as they claim, for the national interest but in order to reconfigure themselves as a long term fact in national politics, either by personal or regional geographical political interests.
It would therefore be imperative for the three political parties to answer to the issue that they have made enough progress, through the GPA and inclusive government, to call for an election next year. Alternatively, they could stall the election until 2013. Where they fail to answer either, they are being dishonest to the people of Zimbabwe.
By Takura Zhangazha