5 November 2012

Zimbabwe: Civic Groups and MDC Dismiss Mugabe Call for March Elections

Photo: IRIN
President Robert Mugabe

The three political parties in the Government of National Unity (GNU) are headed for a deadlock over the date for the next harmonised elections, following more statements by Robert Mugabe that the elections would be in March next year, with or without a new constitution.

Mugabe made the comments at the ZANU PF headquarters in Harare on Saturday, where he launched the 2012/2013 Presidential Well Wishers Special Agricultural Inputs Scheme. He also announced that his party would reveal their position on the COPAC draft constitution next week.

The election date has already been rejected by the MDC formations and civic groups in the country, who say more time is needed to implement key reforms that were agreed to in the Global Political Agreement (GPA). Facilitated by regional leaders, the GPA laid out the roadmap towards elections and a new constitution is part of it.

The COPAC draft has already been adopted by the MDC formations and civic groups, who are pushing for a YES vote at the referendum. But ZANU PF have been pushing for a NO vote, insisting the draft does not represent what Zimbabweans want.

Mugabe further complicated matters at the 2nd All Stakeholders Conference last month. In his address to delegates he said the principals would have the final word on the draft constitution. Mugabe also repeated this when he opened the fifth session of parliament last week.

Thabani Nyoni from the Crisis Coalition, which represents 350 member organisations, told SW Radio Africa that there is a general consensus among the groups that the environment in Zimbabwe is not conducive to holding elections. He said no talk of elections should even begin before the key reforms, agreed on by the political parties, are implemented.

"We feel that this talk of elections is part of that process of frustrating the progress in making key reforms because people are being perpetually subjected to an electioneering mode, which does not allow sober engagement or critical reforms to take place," Nyoni explained.

Regarding Mugabe's comments that the principals have the last word, Nyoni said: "We had problems initially with the constitutional process being moved from people to parliament. We have even more problems with it being moved from parliament to executive. We feel that it is an affront to the ideals of constitutional participation in Zimbabwe."

Seiso Moyo, the MDC-T secretary for elections, agreed. But he told SW Radio Africa that he doubts that Robert Mugabe would hijack the process, since he and the other party leaders were consulted throughout the negotiating process and gave their consent to what was agreed on.

"The people have spoken and they will speak again at the referendum. So I don't see how at this stage the principals can all of a sudden become the people and go against the draft. It is already a negotiated document. The principals had their input and they provided leadership to the negotiators," Moyo said.

Both Nyoni and Moyo dismissed the March date for elections that Mugabe has repeated, saying there needs to be a drastic change in the atmosphere on the ground and legislative changes that help create that environment. Both agreed March is too early.

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