Already there is heated debate at home, in the region and abroad about what should happen or is likely to happen in Zimbabwe in the months ahead. The debates are becoming increasingly robust as the hype about elections intensifies.
President Robert Mugabe and Zanu PF have of late seized the initiative, setting the agenda by demanding the fast-tracking of the constitution-making process to facilitate early elections. He has even threatened to unilaterally call for elections if the constitution-making process –– which has been going on since April 2009 –– drags on.
The exercise is currently stalled after party consultations. At this point let’s start from the beginning. The GPA, signed in September 2008, is the basis of the inclusive government whose lifespan is not stated in the document. We are now talking about facts, not politicking. Not sophistries, deception and lies.
Parties left open the duration of the GPA government after haggling because they did not want to ignite electioneering while defeating the objective of restoring political and economic stability. Zanu PF wanted it to be five years, others less. There was an unwritten understanding elections would come after a new constitution even though there was a possibility of the draft being rejected at the referendum but parties had to work together to achieve this. Everybody understood that.
The reason why this was important was because election disputes in the past decade centred on the constitution, political violence and manipulation of results.
That is why a new constitution and electoral reforms had to be produced before the 2008 polls.
Peaceful elections were held in March 2008. There was a hung parliament. That combined with the outcome of presidential elections in March before the bloodbath in the June run-off rejected by Sadc and the international community necessitated the GPA and resultant inclusive government. So the understanding was that after the GPA and attendant reforms, including a new constitution, Zimbabwe would go to credible, free and fair elections.
This being a political, and indeed a social process, not everything could be written down. History, context and subtext would provide a complete understanding of the situation. However, the GPA parties and stakeholders have different interpretations of this.
Mugabe and his loyalists, for instance, now claim the GPA has expired; the inclusive government is dysfunctional; the constitution-making process doesn’t have a causal link with elections; polls must be held this year so that Zimbabwe puts behind it this decade of conflict and doesn’t disrupt the farming season; and since efforts to come up with a new constitution are stalled polls must be held this year. Except for blatant misrepresentations, some of these assertions make perfect sense on the surface but only until you look deeper, scrutinise and ask pertinent questions.
Why all this rush from Mugabe and Zanu PF? Does it have anything to do with national interest, democracy or his old age, health, succession, diamonds or what has been happening internationally like the murder of Muammar Gaddafi and conviction of Charles Taylor at The Hague?
Why is Mugabe now refusing to adhere to the GPA and the roadmap, while secretly sending envoys to Sadc? Is he agitating for elections because he genuinely wants to serve the national interest? What makes him think he will win the next elections given his record of failure? What happens after the elections?
So at their meeting today Sadc leaders must be wary. Zimbabwe must prepare properly and adequately as UN human rights chief Navi Pillay said last week. We want free and fair elections which will produce legitimate winners congratulated by losers. It would be tragic for Zimbabwe to rush to disputed elections again and spend almost two decades fighting about election outcomes.
There is time to get it right if there is political will and serious leadership. Lawyers say Zimbabwe’s current parliament can constitutionally and legally last up to June 28 next year and elections can be held by October 28, while Mugabe could be there until November next year. So there is time to do the right thing and get it right once and for all instead of rushing to elections and reproducing the 2008 fiasco, conflict and perpetual talks for a negotiated settlement.
Zimbabweans and the world must demand maturity from our leaders. Somehow this madness must cease. We must stop this madness now and get serious with ourselves and issues for the sake of the nation.