Elections without necessary reforms? In whose interest would such elections be? Zimbabweans or President Robert Mugabe and his loyalists? After the experience of June 2008? Would that sort of a thing be acceptable to the people, our neighbours and the international community?
Intensified battles over the timing of elections and renewed hostile exchanges on the political landscape have exposed the limitations of the reform process and threatens to derail the Global Political Agreement (GPA). Mugabe’s call for early elections has increased fears of a return to 2008’s violence.
Of course, eventually elections are inevitable, but without serious, enforceable reforms, Zimbabwe faces another illegitimate vote and prospects of entrenched polarisation and crisis.
Given Mugabe’s attitude and hostile remarks about Sadc facilitator, SA President Jacob Zuma last week, GPA guarantors have an uphill battle to secure reforms before polls.
The GPA was a direct result of the brutality and killings of the June 2008 presidential election run-off in which Mugabe stormed back to office via a campaign of terror after he was defeated by Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai in the first round of polls. Results of the presidential poll in March were delayed by more than a month under the pretext of “meticulous verification” as Mugabe and adherents tried to manage the situation.
Although the full story of what happened is yet to be told (and it must hopefully before the next elections), many believe Mugabe was defeated outright but his diehards cooked up the figures to justify a run-off.
However, African leaders, both at Sadc and AU level, rejected Mugabe’s “victory” and forced him to enter negotiations for an inclusive government, a transitional arrangement before free and fair elections are held.
AU leaders met in Sharm El Sheik, Egypt soon after the run-off and stated in no uncertain terms that they rejected Mugabe’s alleged victory. That led to serious negotiations and the signing of the GPA in September 2008. The purpose of the GPA was to restore political and economic stability in the country to create conditions for credible elections.
After getting a reprieve, Zanu PF is now increasingly confident again it can intimidate opponents and frustrate reform, and there is waning faith, internally and externally, in the GPA processes, largely because of Mugabe’s refusal to uphold his commitments.
Mugabe’s health and Zanu PF succession turmoil are further fuelling problems around the GPA as the cabal around him now wants to wriggle out of the agreement to force elections with or without a new constitution.
It now clear without stronger internal and external pressure, mostly from Sadc, on Mugabe, Zanu PF might end up withdrawing from the current tenuous coalition, triggering renewed violence and grave consequences for the region.
There are many suggestions how this could be avoided. Dr Ibbo Mandaza recently came up with a proposal, which we tend to agree with. He said we must as a nation focus less on election talk and more on creating conditions for free and fair polls either through the current GNU or GNUII.
Mandaza proposed a reformed and restructured GNU with the following objectives:
Delivery of service to the people, on the strength of a smaller and technocratic cabinet and public service, and a realistic but well-designed National Development Programme;
Restoration of the national institutions, at least to the level and status they enjoyed in the early 1980’s; non-partisan, professional and truly national;
Restore fiscal, monetary and macro-economic management systems, designed to ensure capitalisation on the country’s mineral and agricultural resources, towards industrialisation, job and wealth creation.
Mandaza said the process should begin with the principals and the need to establish a consensus that it is possible to restructure, reform and improve the content and direction of the GNU, as an efficient state machinery, while proceeding with the constitution-making process and preparations for free and fair elections. We can’t agree more.