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Sadc pins Mugabe down on elections

PRESIDENT Robert Mugabe is on the ropes as Sadc leaders are set to meet next weekend in Maputo, Mozambique, for an extraordinary summit to deal with Zimbabwe’s political and security situation ahead of elections later this year.

Faith Zaba/Owen Gagare

Diplomatic sources at Sadc’s Gaborone headquarters in Botswana say the summit, which will be held on June 9, will be one of the most critical ever as it comes on the cusp of polls and the end of the four-year coalition government established in 2009 with the help of the region to restore political and economic stability, while preparing for free and fair elections.

They say while Mugabe and Zanu PF have been trying to resist the special summit or confine its discussions to election funding to avoid scrutiny before and during the polls, Sadc leaders have rejected this, demanding a comprehensive review of the situation in Zimbabwe in the context of the Global Political Agreement (GPA) and the roadmap.

“The summit will be in Maputo next weekend to review the GPA and the political and electoral environment before elections,” a senior Sadc diplomat said.

“Since 2011, Mugabe and his party have been fighting a cold war with regional leaders over implementation of the GPA, roadmap and reforms. Despite threatening to call for elections arbitrarily and reject Sadc facilitator, South African President Jacob Zuma, and his team, Mugabe has failed to wriggle out of the GPA and call for polls unilaterally. He is currently on the ropes.”

Another diplomat said Zanu PF has, however, caused anxious moments over the elections date issue after it recently blocked Zuma’s team and the Sadc troika representatives from attending full Joint Monitoring and Implementation Committee (Jomic) meetings.

Diplomats say to show Mugabe’s bluster is no longer taken seriously in the region, Zuma — who has maintained a firm stance and kept the Zimbabwe situation under control — twisted his counterpart’s arm to have the Maputo summit when they met on Sunday in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, on the sidelines of the African Union jubilee celebrations.

Zanu PF and its leaders did not want Sadc to have an extraordinary summit on Zimbabwe besides the regular annual meetings usually held in August.

The sources also say Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, who is also MDC-T leader, and Industry and Commerce minister and MDC chief Welshman Ncube, however, lobbied regional leaders for the special summit which Mugabe did not want.

The three political parties in the inclusive government, Zanu PF and the two MDC formations, were formally notified yesterday on the date of the extraordinary summit.

Now that the summit dates have been secured, Zanu PF has shifted its position and is saying only election funding issues would be discussed at the meeting, a claim already rejected by Zuma’s team.

This comes as Zuma’s facilitation team is expected in the country on Tuesday to meet negotiators over the election roadmap and Jomic issues.

The Sadc appointees to Jomic, who are expected in the country on Wednesday, will also meet with the monitoring body as it presses ahead with plans to ensure the country holds free and fair polls.

Sadc, keen to play a key role in ensuring there is no repeat of the disputed bloody 2008 polls, wants to amend its Principles and Guidelines Governing Democratic Elections at the meeting to allow its observers to be deployed three months ahead of polls and three months after, which Mugabe and Zanu PF have been steadfastly resisting.

Article 4.1.10 of the guidelines states that the observer missions should be deployed at least two weeks before the voting day, which Sadc now says is not adequate to monitor the volatile electoral environment in Zimbabwe.

“The extraordinary summit will seek to amend the principles and guidelines on elections to extend the 14 days for the deployment of observer missions. We want the observer missions in Zimbabwe at least three months before the elections, whose date will be made clearer at the summit,” said a senior Sadc official.

“These elections are not going to be easy for Sadc. We want to make sure the environment is conducive to free and fair elections so that the Zimbabwe issue is resolved once and for all.”

Sadc diplomats said regional leaders are also expected to take stock of the political situation in Zimbabwe and approve a new election roadmap currently being thrashed out by negotiators of the three parties in the inclusive government after a new constitution was signed and gazetted last week.

In line with the region’s guidelines, Sadc wants to ensure there is a non-violent environment for free, fair and peaceful elections, constitutional and legal guarantees of freedom and rights of the citizens are respected and that there is non-discrimination in voter registration.

Sadc also wants the existence of an updated and accessible voters’ roll, polling stations to be in neutral places and the counting of votes to be done at polling stations, scrutiny which Zanu PF has been desperately trying to avoid.

Apart from assessing Zimbabwe’s political and legal preparedness for the elections, the summit is also expected to deal with issues of funding of the elections.

“Regional leaders want clarification on how much Zimbabwe has for the polls, how much (money) it needs and how foreign funds will be channelled to assist in the process. We have been receiving conflicting reports on the funds raised so far,” the Sadc official said.

“Sadc wants the elections to be properly funded and to be transparent so that the Zimbabwe question is brought to finality. And obviously, because Sadc is going to assist in mobilising funds, it naturally means the stakes which are already high, will be raised higher to ensure the polls are free and fair. Sadc leaders can’t discuss funding issues without linking them to political and electoral processes, as well as the state of preparedness for elections.”

Sadc diplomats say regional leaders are unnerved by Zanu PF’s desperate attempts to avoid regional and international scrutiny before and after elections.

Mugabe and his officials recently barred a United Nations electoral assessment mission from coming to Zimbabwe — a standard practice — after Harare requested US$225 million from United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) to fund the elections.

The UNDP helped to pay for the new constitution which Mugabe signed into law last week.

The UN mission wanted to meet political players, members of the civil society and electoral institutions, but Zanu PF claimed this would be overstepping its mandate.

“We also want to understand from Zanu PF why it is so opposed to the UNDP funding, when the UN agency funded the constitution-making process. When dealing with these issues, we will listen to all GPA parties,” the Sadc official said.

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