Mugabe climbs down on polls

Faith Zaba

AS the Zanu PF central committee meets today to discuss issues affecting the party, President Robert Mugabe and his politburo have all but made a dramatic climb down on their demands for elections this year following a watershed Sadc summit in Luanda which blocked their plans, leaving them in disarray.The Zanu PF politburo met on Wednesday and failed to stick to resolutions on elections it has been making since beginning of year. Mugabe also failed to carry out his threats to announce the elections trajectory by last month before he was forced to retreat in Luanda.
Sadc leaders in Luanda told Zimbabwean leaders and their parties to go back home and implement the Global Political Agreement (GPA) and follow the elections roadmap to prepare for free and after elections after 12 months from the beginning of this month.
Senior Zanu PF politburo members yesterday said Mugabe and his loyalists failed to “stay course” on elections during the Wednesday meeting. Sources said the main resolution of the meeting was the nullification of the hotly-disputed district coordinating committee (DCC) elections whose chaotic fallout was first reported in the Zimbabwe Independent recently.
“We are going to have a central committee meeting tomorrow (today) but the issue of elections is no longer urgent because even in the politburo meeting on Wednesday it wasn’t really discussed, although there were references to it,” a senior politburo member said. “The issue of district elections was prominent.”
The nullification of district elections results, marred by allegations of intimidation, vote-buying and ballot-rigging, was a further indication Mugabe and his party were no longer scrambling for elections this year.
Further signs Zanu PF has now backed down on its clamour for early polls, with or without a new constitution, came as MDC leader
Welshman Ncube said yesterday elections were likely to be held by September next year after the expiry of the lifespan on the coalition government in June. The current constitution puts the ceiling for elections as October month-end next year.
Ncube told the Zimbabwe National Chamber of Commerce annual congress in Victoria Falls that polls were practically still a long way off.
“We will have an election by September next year one way or the other,” he said. “After Luanda, there is some steady progress in that direction. Virtually all the issues in deadlock had been resolved as of yesterday (Wednesday). What remains is editorial work of the drafters.”
Copac has reportedly managed to resolve all issues in dispute, paving way for Sadc facilitator, South African President Jacob Zuma’s long-awaited visit. Zuma wanted to visit Harare on Monday but principals and negotiators said they were not ready to receive him. Zuma is expected to pressure principals to implement the GPA and roadmap as directed by Sadc leaders and raise regional concerns about military interference in politics and elections following threats by army commanders to block winners from taking over.
Ncube said the challenge now was to have credible elections which would not undo what has been achieved under the inclusive government.
A series of recent events at home and in the region have conspired to thwart Mugabe’s election plans. After most politburo meetings held since January this year, some Zanu PF officials have been demanding elections this year, citing claims of a dysfunctional coalition government. Zanu PF officials have also been claiming it was in the national interest to hold elections this year, not next year as that would polarise society during United Nations World Tourism Organisation general assembly to be held in Victoria Falls in August. They also been saying the GPA has expired and that the lifespan of the government ends in March next year, pretexts rejected by Sadc leaders. Now some Zanu PF hardliners have invented a new excuse that it is not possible to hold the elections under a new constitution as the remaining before polls by June next year is not enough to accommodate that.
However, at the Wednesday meeting Zanu PF’s approach and focus was remarkably different, sources said.
Absent from the Wednesday meeting was the usual fiery rhetoric demanding elections this year without fail; issuing of ultimatums to Copac to hand over the draft constitution to the principals; urging of Zanu PF officials to prepare for elections this year and the urgent need to end the “dysfunctional” coalition government whose lifespan has allegedly expired.
Instead, the politburo virtually admitted elections were not coming this year when it nullified all DCC election results countrywide, irrespective of whether they were in dispute or not.
A party insider said: “All DCC election results have been nullified. People felt the elections were divisive and fuelled factionalism ahead of elections.”
The DCC elections had become the battleground for Zanu PF factions tussling to wrestle control of strategic party structures in the battle to eventually produce a successor to Mugabe, now reeling from old age and frailty.
Infighting rocked DCC elections in Masvingo, Manicaland, Mashonaland East, Bulawayo and Matabeleland North and South provinces, as the factions led by Vice-President Joice Mujuru and Defence minister Emmerson Mnangagwa fought for control of the provinces.
The divisions which have been ripping the party aparthave been complicated by the emergence of a strong security establishment-based group rooting for Mugabe to stay on.
Internal strife has been so pronounced that it forced Mugabe to publicly denounce factions and their leaders, saying they were destroying the party.
Zanu PF spokesperson Rugare Gumbo said yesterday: “DCC elections were discussed but a report will be produced in due course.” However, senior party officials say the results were nullified. In the last politburo meeting before Wednesday senior party leaders clashed along factional lines mainly due to the elections fallout.
However, party insiders told Independent yesterday hardliners pushing for elections this year, with the support of securocrats, still want polls the current constitution, not new one. They are now arguing it would not be possible to hold produce a new constitution in 12 months and hold elections under it.
Senior Zanu PF politburo member JonathanMoyo, a Mugabe loyalist identified with party hardliners who all along was vowing polls would be held this year, wrote in the current edition of a state-controlled weekly “it would be impossible for the processes, laws and institutions enabled by the new constitution to be enacted and implemented within the constitutionally available time in the next 11 months before the next general election”.
“In other words… it is now practically impossible for the elections to be held under any new constitution,” he said.