So beyond stories about Mugabe’s“ill-health”, the veteran leader and his diehards are certainly going to intensify their campaign to wind up the constitution-making process and force early elections this year, with or without a new constitution.
Although there are many issues such as economic recovery, indigenisation, controversial diamonds mining in Marange and the Global Political Agreement (GPA) to watch on our national political diary, the constitution-making exercise and how Mugabe wants to seize control of it is critical. This issue is clearly linked to Mugabe’s health, age and succession.
The biggest question is: Will Mugabe be allowed to get away with it again? This question is significant and will assume greater meaning in the weeks ahead. Currently the situation is undecided and uncertain.
Mugabe recently demanded the constitution-making process be completed next month so that he can announce the route towards polls. His rivals and critics said the plan for early elections was impractical and likely to stir violence and chaos. However, Mugabe has vowed to go ahead with elections after May. Analysts insist political reforms, including constitutional changes, are necessary to “level the playing field” and avoid upheavals and violence seen during the last 2008 elections.
They have warned early polls would breach GPA terms and the supplementary elections roadmap drafted by Sadc facilitator, South African President Jacob Zuma.
Mugabe has already fired shots across Zuma’s bows by threatening to “remove him in broad daylight”, claiming he had warned him about this. Zuma has been expected in Harare since the last Sadc summit in Luanda in August last year, but seems to be taking his time to intervene to save the GPA.
For now, Mugabe appears determined to plough ahead on a unilateral course. If he abridges the constitution-making process, calls for elections this year, with or without a new constitution, that would be a slap in the face for his GPA partners and Zimbabweans as a whole.
Secondly, it would be a repudiation of Sadc and the African Union as the guarantors of the agreement. And thirdly, it would be a brazen challenge to the international community. With political stakes being so high, it would be interesting to see whether Mugabe would be allowed to get away with it again. For more than 10 years now, he survived an onslaught against his rule, although it seems he is reaching his wits’ end despite his determination. However, given his political experience and survival tactics, it would be folly for anyone to underestimate him.
So far Mugabe has managed to stall transition and reform by refusing to fully implement the GPA and the supplementary roadmap endorsed by Sadc. Nothing significant has changed in the past year since the Livingstone Sadc troika summit in March last year where it appeared regional leaders had drawn a line in the sand.
The promise that Sadc would take a more robust stand following the Livingstone summit has not yet been adequately borne out. Although the MDC parties welcomed the hitherto more proactive engagement Zuma, nothing much has been achieved. Zanu PF, despite its growing internal strife, is still frustrating GPA implementation and reforms.
Now Mugabe is calling for elections on his own terms and nobody is springing to action to stop him. Last year Sadc managed to reject his claims that conditions for free and fair elections had been met but now he seems to have regained the upper hand.
Sadc, as guarantors of the GPA with the AU, needs to secure tangible progress on several key issues if elections are ultimately to be held in conditions that are sufficiently free and fair. The divisive security and law and order issues have essentially been ignored or avoided and thus remain contentious. The regional organisation needs to find a way to change this.
Its strategy to reduce the GPA’s reform agenda to a more manageable set of priorities and strengthen monitoring of implementation has not worked. The GPA, which must remain the elections roadmap, must be implemented to ensure Zimbabwe develops a credible political system that enables both cooperation and responsible competition between the political parties, and to cope with security issues during and after the elections.