The Herald (Harare)

Zimbabwe: Time to Set Poll Dates

editorial

Once again, we woke up to disheartening reports that Copac will not produce a refined draft constitution any time soon as it emerged on Wednesday that there were 30 contentious issues the three parties in Government were failing to agree on.

This raised the spectre of taking the constitution-making process into next year, which will make it an incredible fours years running, for a process that was supposed to last no more than two years.

It is clear the MDCs are playing games to delay harmonised elections scheduled for the first quarter of next year since the two parties are amenable to a mid-year poll.

We remember reporting in this issue, 11 days ago, that the Cabinet Committee set up by principals to the inclusive Government to break the deadlock in the constitution-making process had resolved most contentious issues in the Copac Second All Stakeholders' report.

None other than Eric Matinenga, a minister drawn from the MDC-T and chair of the committee, confirmed that significant progress had been made.

This leaves us wondering from where the "30 sticky issues" the MDCs are touting have come from? We are inclined to believe that the so-called sticky issues are just red herrings meant to prolong the constitution-making process and in so doing lengthen the life of the discorded inclusive Government to the detriment of the national interest.

We are under no illusion that the MDCs are up to their usual tricks again for talk of "outstanding or sticky issues" has become synonymous with the fractious parties from the time the GPA was being negotiated to the ongoing constitution-making process.

It is high time the constitution-making process is finalised to pave way for the holding of elections scheduled for March next year. We believe we speak for many when we say people are now tired of the long-drawn process especially as they made their voices heard during that outreach programme.

Zimbabweans spoke in their millions over what they wanted included in the envisaged new constitution, but some parties in Government, in their wisdom or lack of it, chose to ignore what the people said in favour of so-called "international best practices."

We once again urge the Cabinet committee to be guided by the National Statistical Report in resolving the areas of divergence because if they depart from what the people said then the resultant draft constitution will be rejected by the people at the referendum.

Let us give the people the constitution they want. The impending harmonised elections are real and cannot be wished away. The life of the current parliament expires in March next year.

The field to be covered before the elections is vast and for the parties in Government that jointly enjoy the power of incumbency, the campaign should have started yesterday.

Election 2013 is big, it will be a throwback to March 1980 and 2008 when Zimbabweans chose leaders at all levels of Government and any party worth its salt would be girding its loins right now for the battle of hearts and minds.

It thus comes as a surprise that at this late hour, some parties want to drag their feet in the hope of delaying elections instead of focusing on serenading the notoriously perceptive Zimbabwean voter.

With the advent of the inclusive Government all parties in Government have co-ownership of the election management system and electoral environment, hence the only threat they should dread is the voter who will stand in judgement over them in the ballot box.

The ownership began way back in 2004 after the adoption of the Sadc principles and guidelines on the conduct of democratic elections in Grand Baie, Mauritius. Then Zanu-PF and MDC legislators debated and agreed on the implementation of the guidelines and principles that were duly applied in toto in subsequent elections.

The constitution-making process cries for conclusion, elections beckon with or without the new constitution.

To this end we urge President Mugabe to proclaim the dates for next year's elections so that people can do away with this dysfunctional coalition and be in a position to draft their constitution without let or hindrance.

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