THERE is a general sense of fear and anxiety gripping Zimbabweans concerning the upcoming elections mooted for mid next year, as Zanu PF fights for its survival. Analysts say violence is likely to flare up, following reports that President Robert Mugabe has reactivated the state security apparatus to intimidate people into voting for him.
With the announcement by Mugabe that polls are likely to be held by mid 2011, after a new constitution, reports have filtered through that the 86 year-old leader has started mobilising for the elections. His plans, the reports say, include deploying the army, Central Intelligence Organisation agents and the police to ensure his victory in the elections.
Critics say the prevailing political environment was not conducive for elections considering that the same polarised situation that saw the June 2008 presidential run-off turn bloody has not changed. The military has been fingered in Zanu PF’s terror campaign in the constitution-making outreach programme.
In rural constituencies, military bases are reportedly still intact while the Joint Operations Command (JOC) is active at district level to plot Mugabe’s way to an election victory.
Mugabe is said to be pushing for elections next year because he believes MDC-T is limping and his party has a chance to romp to a landslide victory.
Civil society is lobbying for critical democratic and electoral reforms to allow for free and fair elections, which will bring to an end a troubled coalition government, formed after the signing of a Global Political Agreement in September 2008.
MDC-T says international observers and peacekeepers should be deployed to Zimbabwe to contain Mugabe’s violence, but presidential spokesperson George Charamba has dismissed Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai’s plea, saying Mugabe would never agree to that.
Constituencies that were hit by political violence are still being haunted by the events of 2008 and are not ready to face another wave of violence next year.
Zaka Central MP Harrison Mudzuri, whose constituency was a political hotbed in 2008, said intelligence officers recently set up a “command centre” in the district to coordinate Zanu PF’s violence.
“As a party (MDC-T), we are not worried about Zanu PF but we are concerned about institutions like the CIOs, police and the army used by Mugabe to intimidate our supporters,” said Mudzuri. “Under the current situation, we are not guaranteed of free and fair elections because of security forces armed to the teeth to intimidate innocent civilians.”
MDC-T blames Zanu PF for the killing of 200 of its supporters and maiming of thousands others in state-sponsored violence in the run-up to the June 2008 presidential run-off.
Mudzuri said the “murderous” JOC needed to be disbanded to allow for a free environment before Mugabe proclaims elections dates.
The president, in consultation with other principals, makes a proclamation of election dates after which the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) starts preparing for the polls.
Analysts said the rural electorate still live in fear as perpetrators of the 2008 violence have not been made accountable.
Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition’s South Africa regional coordinator Dewa Mavhinga said there were no legislative or institutional mechanisms to prevent violence and intimidation in the event of another election.
He suggested that Sadc leaders and the international community deploy a peace-keeping force to Zimbabwe before and after elections to monitor and prevent violence and intimidation.
Mavhinga said violence was likely to escalate in the next polls given that Mugabe and his cronies have rich-pickings from the Marange diamonds.
He demanded government accountability of all diamond revenue from Marange to eliminate the risk of the money being used to fund a violent election campaign.
“Without a physical presence in Zimbabwe of a peacekeeping force, it is most likely that we will head for another violent election that will not reflect the free will of the people,” said Mavhinga.
“Everyone must play their part to prevent another bloody, illegitimate election. Churches, communities and civil society must devise mechanisms to protect their communities, and reject and expose violence wherever it occurs.”
Other analysts blame Tsvangirai, who they said did nothing after the killing of 200 of his supporters.
The negation of the issue of the security apparatus and the failure of MDC-T to clearly insist on a change of both personnel and attitude when they had the leverage to do so was a complete betrayal of the mandate that the party got from Zimbabweans after the 2008 elections, civic observers say.
Political commentator Julius Mutyambizi-Dewa said: “He is now fast becoming a liability to his own supporters who are growing frustrated about being exposed to deadly violence but at the end of the day their party does nothing other than offering comradeship to the perpetrators.
“A responsible political party would fight for its supporters; it would fight for the victims and bring justice for their departed souls and the troubled lives of their orphaned children and their widows. Accountability would have done that and the insistence by MDC on reconciliation before justice was an irresponsible anxiety driven by prospects of being in government.”
Mutyambizi-Dewa said holding elections under the current scenario will be very irresponsible because there are no reforms on the political front to guarantee credible elections.
He said the reform of security institutions and the re-orientation of security personnel into a more national apparatus rather than a partisan force should have been key.
“Unfortunately from their attitude MDC also seems to be showing an inclination towards replacing Zanu PF sympathetic security personnel with MDC sympathetic personnel which is not the solution but in fact is one side of the same coin. The security ought not to be an apparatus for either Zanu PF or MDC or any political party. The security ought to be a national apparatus,” said Mutyambizi-Dewa.