President Robert Mugabe and Tsvangirai have in recent months been psyching their party supporters up for an early election in 2011 which would mark an end to the inclusive government formed in February last year.
Responding to questions from the Zimbabwe Independent on whether principals to the inclusive government — Mugabe, Tsvangirai and deputy PM Arthur Mutambara — would take on board an appeal made by business seeking a five-year moratorium on the elections, the premier said more electoral reforms are required before Zimbabweans can cast their ballots.
“There is no such thing as a permanent transition. We need to have an exit strategy to this uncertainty and policy inconsistency because we are a coalition,” Tsvangirai said.
“We need an election certainly; not tomorrow certainly, it may or may not be next year, depending on the process that is being undertaken — the constitution-making process, the referendum and of course the eventual election. But the election cannot be avoided. If you avoid this election, you are not resolving the political crisis that is in the minds of the international community…,” he said.
He added that: “But certainly we must be sure that when we go to that election, there is no violence and that the election will be conducted in a free and fair manner and that the outcome is not contestable so that we don’t have another repeat of 2008.”
Zimbabwe is crafting a new constitution before a referendum leading to the elections is held. But business and civic groups fear that the animosity between the parties that resulted in disturbances and violence during the constitution outreach programme in the capital a fortnight ago could be a precursor to election-motivated violence.
Apart from writing the new supreme law, Zimbabwe is yet to compile a credible voters’ roll amid concerns that there are numerous ghost voters on the existing roll.
The three political protagonists who formed the coalition after a disputed election two years ago reached a deadlock on the full implementation of the Global Political Agreement, resulting in a regional initiative pushing for fresh elections.
The coalition was formed two years ago after a disputed bloody election runoff that saw Mugabe extending his reign in power despite losing to Tsvangirai in the first round of elections that was generally regarded by the international community as free and fair.
The Prime Minister also told business executives attending an American Business Association of Zimbabwe forum in Harare that the coalition is planning to undertake a land audit expected to name and shame multiple farm owners.
However, to date government has not shown any commitment in commissioning the exercise, ostensibly due to financial constraints.
The land audit is part of the concessions made by the political parties represented in the GPA to make the land redistribution exercise transparent.
Government embarked on a chaotic land reform exercise 10 years ago which expropriated vast tracts of land, supposedly to correct historic imbalances.
“Disdain for the rule of law and property rights continues to undermine our image as a safe investment destination,” Tsvangirai said. “We are working on a land audit as agreed in the GPA to bring a closure to the trauma of the fast-track land reform, which distorted our property rights regime. We know that we must continue to fight for the respect of property rights in all sectors of the economy if we are to encourage long-term land investments,” he said.
“The current limitation is finance. We will of course try and put some funds into the current budget to make sure that the audit is carried out. We need an audit to establish who has got what land, so that we can have a fair and transparent distribution. But it also has to deal with the question: who is actually producing? What are the long term prospects for the farm that we have got and the farmers that are on the land?”
The European Union last year pledged to provide financial assistance for the land audit but Zanu PF is reportedly reluctant to undertake the land inventory saying Western governments are plotting to reverse the controversial land grab.