LEADERS of opposition political parties in Zimbabwe say the army should facilitate the formation of a transitional government that should pave way for a free and fair election.
By Tinashe Kairiza/Melody Chikono
This comes after diplomats serving in Zimbabwe raised concern that the country’s military could have toppled President Robert Mugabe’s government following their intervention which they said was only meant to “arrest criminals.’’
As tanks and armoured vehicles trundled in the city centre and took strategic positions around Harare on Wednesday, Zimbabwe Defence Forces Chief-of-Staff (Quartermaster) Major-General Sibusiso Moyo issued a televised statement announcing that the military was not subverting Mugabe’s government. He said the ZDF was merely intervening to restore order and “arrest criminals” around the president.
Zimbabwe’s former prime minister and leader of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) Morgan Tsvangirai (pictured), while addressing a press conference yesterday, said President Robert Mugabe should step down and pave way for a “transitional government” that would hold a credible election.
Tsvangirai once served as the country’s premier in a coalition government headed by Mugabe following a disputed poll in 2008.
The uneasy coalition government, which, however, restored relative economic stability, ended in 2013 to pave way for yet another disputed election which Mugabe controversially won. “We have resolved on an urgent need to a return to a credible roadmap. Mugabe must resign,” Tsvangirai said.
“Then there should be an all-negotiated transitional mechanism agreed by all stakeholders. Sadc and international bodies should be underwriters to a free and fair election,” Tsvangirai said, noting that the military had “assured commitment to peace”.
Tsvangirai, however, said neither Sadc nor the Zimbabwe Defence Forces were yet to express overtures to him on the need to set up a transitional government.
“For now, nothing has been initiated. But the solution to the crisis needs all stakeholders though for now it is still speculation,” he said, noting that the army should ensure that their intervention should not escalate to an unconstitutional takeover of power,” he said.
Tsvangirai, however, said he bore no ill-feeling towards the president, who is now under house arrest. “In this case, it does not give me pleasure; it has never been anything personal against Mugabe,” Tsvangirai added.
“My hope is that Mugabe would have used time to end his legacy in a good way,” Tsvangirai said, adding that Mugabe had lost power to negotiate from a position of strength.”
Addressing a press conference yesterday, Zimbabwe’s former vice-president and People’s Rainbow Coalition (PRC) presidential candidate Joice Mujuru also said there was urgent need to set up a transitional government as Zimbabwe prepared to hold elections.
While she refused to comment on the “coup” staged by the army, Mujuru said the country’s path towards reconstruction and “national healing” could only be guaranteed by a transitional government.
“PRC believes that present political developments require collective engagement and national dialogue of all critical stakeholders in our country . . . for the success of such national collective engagement and dialogue there is no doubt that we are in need of a transitional arrangement,” she said.
“That (transitional government) should attend to key issues of economic recovery and electoral reform processes.
“We fought to build a democratic and legitimate government that is based on popular support and founded on the basis of participatory democracy, which can only be achieved through free, fair and credible election.”
As PRC we stand on the firm foundation that Zimbabwe should be a land of equal opportunities for all who call it home not for few selected individuals or a group,” she said.
Mujuru added that the PRC believes that present political developments require collective engagement and national dialogue of all critical stakeholders in the country.
“We therefore urge Zimbabweans that the observation of the rule of law be the cornerstone of our conduct as we seek to revive our constitutional democracy, let’s respect private property and individual rights. We are at a time that peace is only realised through maximum restraint and constructive interaction of ideas as Zimbabweans,” she said.
Former Finance minister and leader of the opposition People’s Democratic Party (PDP) Tendai Biti also said it was imperative that the military should lead the process of setting up a transitional government to restore peace and order in the country.
“The question that needs to be addressed now is: how do we go back to a formal legitimate order? What is key, in my view, is that a transitional authority is set up which is inclusive with the opposition and the ruling party,” Biti said.
“We need a dialogue too with regional organisations, the African Union and the United Nations. We can’t solve this problem on our own.”
Meanwhile, Foreign Affairs permanent secretary Joey Bimha briefed diplomats on Wednesday, informing them that the ZDF had not staged a coup, but intervened to ensure peace and order, amid concerns from some members of the international community that the army had in fact toppled Mugabe’s government.
The briefings were held at Munhumutapa Building between 2pm and 5pm.
Diplomats who attended told the Independent that Bimha did not entertain questions but basically reiterated the position stated by the ZDF after the army intervention.
Moyo said Mugabe and his family were safe and sound, adding that their security was guaranteed.
Some diplomats however said army chiefs were frantically trying to conceal the “soft or slow motion coup”, as well as pacify the international community, hence the order given to Bimha to quickly arrange a briefing.
“Diplomats were summoned to Munhumutapa Building by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Wednesday through the Director of Protocol Ambassador Chipo Zindoga. The briefings were chaired by foreign affairs secretary Joey Bimha,” a diplomat said.
“The briefings were conducted at intervals starting at 2:30pm, while the last one started at 4:30pm. Diplomats from Sadc were the first to be briefed, followed by those from the African Union.
“After that, a joint briefing attended by all diplomats was held at 4:30pm.”
A diplomat told the Independent: “It was frustrating because we were not allowed to ask questions after the briefings. They are trying to cover up the coup which has happened.”
Bimha confirmed the briefings, saying they were meant to “inform them about the situation on the ground.”
When quizzed whether army officials were present during the meeting, Bimha said: “I did not see any.”
He added: “It (briefing) was to let them know of the reality of the situation on the ground as announced by the military.”
“The briefings lasted for about 15 minutes and the diplomats did not ask any questions.”
Bimha refused to explain what “the situation on the ground” is. A number of embassies, including those of the United States and Britain, have announced they are closely monitoring political developments in the country following the army’s intervention.
Sadc is also closely monitoring developments in the country. The Sadc organ on defence and security met in Botswana yesterday to discuss the situation, while South Africa’s President Jacob Zuma, who chairs the regional block, sent envoys to Harare on Wednesday to meet Mugabe and military bosses. Mugabe is under house arrest at his Blue Roof mansion in Borrowdale.
The army has arrested some ministers and members of Mugabe’s security in its ongoing operation to “arrest criminals” around the president.