When will Zim be ready for elections?

DR Ibbo Mandaza, a local academic, author and publisher, always has interesting “theories” on politics, current events and how things are likely to pan out.

Editor’s Memo with Dumisani Mleya

Besides being an intriguing political operator in his own right, his views can be enlightening, yet sometimes sound theoretical and far-fetched, if eccentric, before events prove him right — not all the time, but sometimes.

Among some of his thought-provoking views has been his contention that perhaps Zimbabwe needs a second government of national unity because it doesn’t look ready for elections now and transition beyond the current political stalemate.

In the process, Mandaza also argues the media in particular, and academics in general, have failed so far to probe behind the political rhetoric so as to identify and explore the dynamics and realities influencing current politics.

But the strange thing though is that he believes there would be no elections this year. His main reasons included processes antecedent to the polls and the Zimbabwe’s leadership succession crisis which cannot be resolved through elections, but via a “transitional mechanism” until the country is ready for a meaningful contest.

Mandaza says, first, the time-line for 2013 elections is fading. He also says aligning some laws to the new constitution will take long.

His other reason is Sadc will remain steadfast in its demands for reforms in accordance with the agreed roadmap even though the debate on what constitutes “minimum conditions” for free and fair elections has become chaotic and even open-ended.

The other issue is Mandaza thinks President Robert Mugabe cannot possibly reconcile an election agenda in 2013, with all its potential for a bruising campaign and violence on the one hand, and, on the other, the need to leave behind a legacy at least acceptable enough to redeem some excesses of his misrule, while simultaneously bequeathing Zimbabwe a new constitution, a peaceful transition, economic recovery and a return to the international community of nations.

Three years ago, Mandaza argued the principals’ forum would have a life of its own such that Mugabe and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai would end up comfy with each other. It initially sounded ridiculous, but it later transpired Tsvangirai apparently forgot “he who sups with the devil needs a long spoon”!

Now the big question is: Is Zimbabwe ready for elections and when will the polls be held? Mandaza thinks there would no elections in 2013. Of course, many think they will be there even if the country may not be ready.

Frankly speaking, Zimbabwe is not ready for elections. As the Global Political Agreement lurches towards the end, there are continued violations of the agreement, rejection of the attendant roadmap and reforms.

Besides, there is chaos on critical processes like voter registration and voters’ roll compilation, showing electoral institutions such as the Registrar-General’s Office and Zimbabwe Electoral Commission still lack capacity and credibility. The public media is still viciously partisan.

Further, Zanu PF is also rejecting agreed reforms and is anxious to prevent scrutiny as shown by the blocking of a UN election needs assessment mission, a move underscoring continued lack of conditions for peaceful and credible elections, despite the adoption by parliament of a flawed constitution this week.

Mugabe and his loyalists are refusing to co-operate with Sadc; they recently snubbed President Jacob Zuma’s facilitation team and are unwilling to accept Sadc troika representatives appointed to work with Jomic.

Political leaders are not even agreed on election dates. Their parties haven’t even held primaries.

The military is still interfering in politics; repression remains rife and violence lingers. In fact, despite relative calm nothing much has changed since 2008. So at what point will Zimbabwe be ready for elections?