Harare — PRESIDENT Robert Mugabe is reportedly ready to relinquish power to Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai should the premier win critical elections expected around June this year, the Zimbabwe Independent has learnt.
Sources close to the two erstwhile bitter rivals revealed that Mugabe and Tsvangirai held a series of meetings in December over the make-or-break elections and agreed to ensure they would be held in a peaceful environment to guarantee a free and fair outcome thus allowing the country to move forward. They both agreed that whoever loses should accept defeat for the sake of political stability.
The unity government partners agreed to safeguard the smooth running of the electoral process by meeting the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission and Human Rights Commission, both essential in the electoral process, to assess their preparedness for the vote.
Mugabe and Tsvangirai, once sworn enemies who now seem to have found each other courtesy of the almost four-year-old Government of National Unity, agreed that the Zimbabwean crisis had dragged on for far too long with devastating socio-economic consequences, and credible elections were crucial to resolving the current political gridlock.
Presidential spokesperson George Charamba confirmed that the principals met several times to discuss the constitution-making process and timing of elections although "no meeting had been convened to discuss the etiquette of winning or losing elections".
Charamba also confirmed there was an "understanding" that victors should win with grace and losers should accept defeat, although he said this was not agreed at a specific meeting, but was reached as a result of constant interaction between the inclusive government and political principals.
"That understanding is not a result of a specific meeting," said Charamba. "It's the inevitable outcome of the daily interactions across parties in cabinet, in the context of principals' meetings and private meetings between them. I don't think the president sees Tsvangirai as a rival. They see each other as contestants who can still meet a day after the elections," Charamba said.
However, Charamba said Mugabe was confident of winning the polls.
"We are working flat out for a win and we are looking forward to receiving a congratulatory message from the prime minister when we win."
Charamba said Mugabe's relationship with Tsvangirai had evolved with time and the country was now moving away from the politics of rancour, bitterness and boycotts.
Constant interactions had resulted in people finding each other and realising they all have a duty to build Zimbabwe, he said. "My personal view is that we have discovered in our politics that even saints have faults while demons have friendly attributes."
Charamba said Mugabe wanted a government in place before the country celebrates its Independence on April 18, and by the time the country hosts the United Nations World Tourism Organisation general assembly in August, and was therefore pushing for early polls.
Mugabe and Tsvangirai met after sustained pressure from Sadc, which continues to insist on free and fair elections. Sadc is the guarantor of the Global Political Agreement (GPA) which gave birth to the present inclusive government. This was after the disputed June 2008 presidential poll run-off in which the military launched a brutal and bloody campaign to retain Mugabe in power. Tsvangirai had earlier defeated Mugabe but fell short of the required majority to assume office.
South African President Jacob Zuma, the Sadc-appointed facilitator to the Zimbabwean political crisis and his Tanzanian counterpart, Jakaya Kikwete who chairs the Sadc Organ on Politics, Defence and Security Co-operation, have been pushing hard for credible polls to end the political logjam.Zimbabwe was represented at the meeting by Foreign Affairs minister Simbarashe Mumbengegwi as Mugabe was attending his Zanu PF party conference in Gweru.
Sources said Mugabe wanted to salvage his soiled legacy by delivering a peaceful, free, fair and credible election, hence his decision to task Tsvangirai with ensuring the proper groundwork is laid for polls. Tsvangirai has been meeting Zec officials as part of this mandate.
Tsvangirai informed the MDC-T national executive and national council on December 18 and 19 that he had held useful meetings with Mugabe and urged his party to be ready for polls, which he said could be held in June.
Tsvangirai's chief of staff Alex Magaisa said he was unaware of any deal or an agreement on the election date, although he confirmed there seemed to be a consensus to deliver free and fair polls.
"What I can confirm is that the prime minister and the president, although I cannot speak on his (Mugabe) behalf, are united on the point that the next elections should be credible and legitimate," said Magaisa.