Why polls must be held in September

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ONE thing that is consistent with the dark forces in Zanu PF is their dogged persistence in their political game plan of destabilising prevailing order to create chaos in the country so that they plot survival from the resultant turmoil.

Column by Qhubani Moyo

Renewed attempts by a small but powerful clique in Zanu PF, which fears President Robert Mugabe’s days are numbered, are underway to run a topsy-turvy and violent elections campaign as part of this wider plan to take advantage of calculated chaos to retain its party in government.

This hardline cabal hopes to achieve this either by running a scotched-earth campaign spearheaded by a brutal state security apparatus which wants to retain Mugabe in power as a captive leader who will be remote-controlled by ambitious elements in the Joint Operations Command (Joc) or creating so much chaos that post-election events and arising new circumstances cannot be ignored as part of the solution to the Zimbabwean question.

This Joc-based group, which secured the June 2008 presidential election run-off through a campaign of violence and intimidation before imposing Mugabe as the civilian authority when in fact he is a product of a quasi-military operation, has seen that in current electoral matrix Zanu PF will not win any free and fair elections and is therefore resorting to the “chaos theory” whose outcomes are of course unpredictable.

This has been shown by their repeated attempts to disrupt the Global Political Agreement (GPA) implementation, render the inclusive government dysfunctional, defy Sadc resolutions on Zimbabwe, disregard the elections roadmap, collapse the constitution-making process, undermine the Joint Monitoring and Implementation Committee and now create chaos through unrealistic election dates demands.

These architects of organised political disorder are now pushing relentlessly for elections by or on June 29 using all sorts of unfounded and flawed legalistic arguments that have no validity at law or logic, quite apart from the fact that their feverish demands are self-serving and not in the national interest.

The same brokers of terror, well- known for their contempt of the constitution, laws and the rule of law — indeed democracy — suddenly want to play custodians of the constitution by insisting on “compliance” with the June 29 “due date” of the elections when clearly all they want is to manipulate Mugabe’s old age and problems in Zanu PF in pursuit of preservation of narrow clique or individual interests.

It is without doubt that these elements in Zanu PF, who thrive on conditions of political instability and in a state of flux, were seriously opposed to the new constitution and ran a spirited campaign to collapse the process again in pursuit of parochial interests.

They have always lobbied using an agitated approach and scare tactics for early elections since 2010 even though it was evident such sort of polls would be disputed again and Zimbabwe would remain locked in a political stalemate and concomitant economic decline.

Fortunately, their strategy has not worked so far although they have clearly not given up in trying to impose premature elections based on a new constitution — after failing to stop the constitution-making process — tailored to suit their factional political interests.

Now that the new constitution will be the supreme law of the land soon, their new approach is to ensure it remains on paper without full or effective implementation because if it changes the conditions for elections, they would not survive.

The best way for them is to ensure elections are held immediately before the full implementation of political reforms, including a new constitution, and reconstruction of democratic state institutions, particularly those dealing with electoral issues.

This will enable them to run the elections on the basis of old compromised institutions and their tried and tested machinery of violence used since 1980.

This is perhaps one of the symbolic reasons why they want elections by or on June 29 as this would revive painful memories of the June 2008 presidential election run-off, the ghost of stolen elections and fear — sadistic and callous tools in their campaign kit.

On this point alone the dreadful reminiscences associated with the June 2008 bloodbath will manage to re-activate the fear factor and coercion.

However, Zimbabweans, progressive Africans and the international community in its collectivity must not allow this country to be plunged into chaos again by power-hungry Joc commanders and their surrogates. Because of the history of electoral violence in June 2000 and June 2008, elections must be avoided in June as a sign of sensitivity and empathy with those who suffered or died from political brutality in the seemingly jinxed month of June.

Beyond symbolism, the reality is that it is practically impossible to hold elections by or on June 29 given the situation on the ground.

We have always maintained since 2010 that elections can only be realistically held in September or October 2013. The new constitution approved by the referendum on March 16 will be introduced in parliament for debate when it reconvenes on May 7.

Given that the constitution is a product of an agreement of the parties, it certainly will sail through, but there are certain processes which cannot be avoided like voter registration, election dates proclamation provisions and aligning clauses of the Electoral Act to the new constitution, while managing the transition from the old to the new constitution.

What that means is Mugabe might only assent to the Constitutional Bill passed by parliament sometime in mid-May to pave way for important processes like aligning legislation to the constitution.

This will be followed by intensive voter registration provided for in the new constitution.

This means the process will take us to sometime in the third week of June and this is assuming funds for these processes are readily available. Only then can the president make a proclamation for election dates, and everything being equal, it will take us to the first week of July.

Thereafter polling should be done at least 30 days after nomination of candidates or 14 days after proclamation of election dates, which will be around August, the period the country will host the United Nations World Tourism Organisation general assembly.

So that stretches the political and electoral processes further, showing the most realistic date for the holding of elections will be sometime in September.

Election dates should be determined by processes and consensus, not chaotic impositions and associated narrow party political or individual interests.

Moyo is the director of policy and research in the MDC led by Professor Welshman Ncube. E-mail: mdcpolicyguru@yahoo.co.uk

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