President Robert Mugabe is stepping up pressure for elections to be held this year, most likely in November, when he is still fit to campaign. The veteran leader is battling old age complications and failing health.
He has insisted he wants elections this year without fail, whether or not the constitution-making process has been completed, but the MDC parties said reforms should first be implemented to create a conducive atmosphere for free and fair elections.
Mugabe last week sent envoys across the Southern African Development Community (Sadc) to lobby regional leaders to endorse his plans for elections this year. The proposals would be tested at the extraordinary Sadc summit in Luanda, Angola, today. The Sadc troika on politics, defence and security met yesterday to discuss the situation in Zimbabwe and other trouble-spots in the region.
MDC-T’s secretary for defence Giles Mutsekwa, in an interview with the Zimbabwe Independent said Zimbabweans should brace themselves for a possible bloody poll campaign, similar to that of 2008, if Mugabe and Zanu PF are allowed to dictate the terms of the elections. He said the involvement of security forces in politics and elections was a harbinger to violent elections.
“It’s a sad development that the securocrats have decided to be actively involved in the politics of the country,” said Mutsekwa. “This means Zimbabwe should be gearing for a violent election, given the preparations that are taking place. The military has agreed to be used as tools to unleash untold violence and this will make the 2008 bloodbath a plaything,” he added.
Mutsekwa hinted the MDC-T was considering appealing to Sadc to help deal with military involvement in the country’s politics before violence breaks out.
However, Zanu PF secretary for administration Didymus Mutasa dismissed as speculation that polls would be violent, while admitting security forces, the army, police and intelligence agencies, were partisan.
“There is nothing odd for the police and soldiers to support Zanu PF, and that does not mean the elections will be violent,” said Mutasa. “We are all political players and their allegiance to Zanu PF does not provoke violence. When trade unions support MDC, does that provoke violence? We want a peaceful election. Soldiers and the police must also exercise their vote,” Mutasa added.
Political analyst Charles Mangongera said chances of a violent election campaign are very high given the current volatile political environment.
“Indications are high that the election itself will be violent given the massive recruitment by the military,” said Mangongera. “The persistent announcement by the military to meddle in the country’s political affairs is a cause for concern.”
He added: “The military is becoming more entrenched in the politics of the country and if this goes unchecked, then we are heading towards another bloody showdown which may be worse than that in 2008 ”.
Deputy Justice minister and MDC-T senator Obert Gutu said Zanu PF was likely to use violence to win the next elections.
“Zanu PF has little chance of winning the forthcoming elections because they have failed,” said Gutu. “This is the reason why the top military brass has engaged in panic mode, but the people will never accept to be bludgeoned to death in order to vote for a party in terminal decline.”
The Welshman Ncube-led MDC’s policy director Qhubani Moyo said violence is likely to be used as a campaign tool by Zanu PF, given the high stakes in the next elections.
UN human rights chief Navi Pillay said last week: “Concern is also rising both inside and outside the country that, unless the parties agree quickly on some key major reforms and there is a distinct shift in attitude, the next election which is due sometime in the coming year could turn into a repeat of the 2008 elections which resulted in rampant politically motivated human rights abuses, including killings, torture, rapes, beatings, arbitrary detention, displacements and other violations.”