PRESIDENT Robert Mugabe and his Zanu PF party want to fast-track the on-and-off constitution-making process to ensure fresh elections are held by spring this year, in a move which could set off a renewed wave of political instability and fierce clashes around the country.
Zanu PF’s intentions became clearer yesterday after the party’s crucial politburo meeting on Wednesday.
The politburo meeting, which outlined the party’s 2011 agenda, discussed the constitution-making process targeting elections. Party restructuring and mobilisation of voters featured prominently as part of the strategy. Indigenisation and sanctions, the campaign centerpiece of the party, was also discussed, suggesting an intensifying drive for elections.
Zanu PF is planning to come up with an Anti-Sanctions Bill and two-million- signature petition, signed by Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai as well, to facilitate grabbing foreign companies. The MDC factions would be pressed to support the Bill and foreign companies to denounce sanctions. If they refuse to support Zanu PF’s agenda, they would be labelled “confirmed and incorrigible puppets”, according to one official. Companies which refuse to back anti-sanctions measures would be targeted for seizures.
Emmerson Mnangagwa, a senior Zanu PF politburo member, recently alluded to this.
Zanu PF confirmed yesterday it wants the constitution-making process to be done by June and a referendum to follow soon afterwards before elections later in the year. It would take a fast-track process to meet Zanu PF’s tight timelines.
Zanu PF spokesman Rugare Gumbo said yesterday it was “absolutely possible” to finish the constitution-making process by June and for a referendum after that before holding elections in a quick succession of political events.
“From the brief that we got in the politburo we will finish the constitution-making around June. After that we go for the referendum and then elections,” he said.
While Zanu PF is targeting September for elections, MDC-T says that is when the referendum is possible, while MDC-N argues the constitution- making process and referendum could spill into next year if properly done.
The clash of agendas and positions between the three parties in the Global Political Agreement triggered militant rhetoric yesterday, with party officials accusing each other of engaging in dangerous manoeuvres and harbouring sinister plots.
Gumbo accused the MDC factions of trying to sabotage the constitution-making process to delay elections.
“They are trying to delay the process and the question is: Why are they afraid of elections?” he said.
Mugabe has threatened to unilaterally dissolve parliament and call for elections if the constitution-making process is held up.
MDC-T spokesman Nelson Chamisa hit back, saying: “Why is Zanu PF afraid of free and fair elections? That is the real question.” Chamisa also accused Zanu PF of hatching a “sinister plot” to steal elections. He said its hysteria about elections showed it was “seized by political demons and Satanist tendencies” to fraudulently claim victory after a flawed process.
MDC-N leader Welshman Ncube said Zanu PF was “caught in a one-party-state time warp” and was trying to impose an “impracticable” political agenda on the country.
“Zanu PF must understand it can’t fast-track a negotiated political process, which is not even under its absolute control. They still have a one-party- state mentality and want to impose an impracticable political agenda on the country,” he said.
Ncube said the constitution-making process would take long because inevitably some disputes would erupt, issues have to be negotiated and processes followed properly. “It’s an act of bad faith on Zanu PF’s part,” he said.
The push by Mugabe and Zanu PF for elections could plunge Zimbabwe, still struggling to emerge from the rubble of the decade-long political crisis and economic meltdown, into a new cycle of instability and violence.
The two MDC formations have accused Zanu PF of deploying security forces around the country to engage in a para-military campaign to win the next elections after its defeat in 2008. MDC-T narrowly beat Zanu PF which for the first time since 1980 lost its majority in parliament.
Air Force of Zimbabwe Air Vice Marshal Henry Muchena, supported by state security machinery, is leading the campaign.
“If Zanu PF is not afraid of elections why are they deploying soldiers around the country to campaign for them,” Chamisa asked? “Why are they setting up bases and arming their supporters? Why are they planning, as usual, to resort to violence and intimidation? Why are they afraid of the people?”
MDC-T secretary-general Tendai Biti last week warned of a “bloodbath” if the country rushes to elections.
Chamisa said MDC-T wants free and fair elections, “not war, killings and bloodletting. Fast-tracking political processes towards elections would not work. We want free and fair elections. We need a roadmap with benchmarks, timelines and dates before elections,” he said.