Zimbabwe: Setting Up PM Tsvangirai to Fail?

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Sometime towards the end of last year the political party principals in the Government of National Unity agreed to meet with the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) to ascertain progress in preparation for 2013 elections.

In December, it was Prime Minister (PM) Morgan Tsvangirai who met the ZEC leadership in the presence of the Minister of Justice, Patrick Chinamasa. It is not clear if PM Tsvangirai's meeting with ZEC was in his role as Prime Minister or a representative of the Global Political Agreement (GPA) principals. Remember that in the constitution-making process the principals had appointed him their spokesperson. It is therefore uncertain if his ZEC meeting was under the same mould of the new configuration within the GPA, where one of the leaders is chosen to represent the others.

When PM Tsvangirai met with ZEC in December, we were told that the meeting had concurred that voter registration will begin on a wider scale across the country on January 3, 2013. When that date arrived ZEC indicated that they had not received any funding from Treasury to commence the voter registration process. A few days after that Chinamasa came out guns blazing, blaming PM Tsvangirai for failure to deliver the voter registration that he had promised. It is the irony and riddle surrounding the evolution of these events that make interesting reading.

Chinamasa's attack on PM Tsvangirai was very suspicious. His immediate parcelling of the blame to the PM sounded theatrical and well-rehearsed. In fact, when PM Tsvangirai met with ZEC many were shocked to imagine just how ZANU-PF could have allowed him such an open door; meeting the commission in the absence of President Robert Mugabe. May be that was the set-up that Chinamasa unwittingly "let out of the bag". Could it be that ZANU-PF wanted PM Tsvangirai to take up such space that all ZEC irregularities and probable inefficiencies could be blamed on him? Could it also be that ZANU-PF wanted PM Tsvangirai to be seen as the man with oversight of ZEC, such that even when an eventual election is bungled up by the electoral body, he would have no one to blame? Was it a case of setting him up to fail and then having that failure blamed squarely on him?

We must also look at the contention between the MDC-T and ZANU-PF over the funding of elections. ZANU-PF has been categorical that funding should come from internal resources; within government and not rely on external donors. The party's fears are synonymous with their suspicion of every external player being interested in the demise of ZANU-PF. The MDC-T on the other hand has been open to election funding from external sources. Beyond the merits and demerits of the parties' expressed positions are deep rooted political considerations. The MDC-T looks eager to get this election going; as the party seems to have a sense that this time around the Southern African Development Community and the African Union may be intolerant to sham polls. This is given the background of blazing conflicts elsewhere on the continent (Mali, Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of Congo, etc).

ZANU-PF on the other hand seems not to be serious about elections. Since 2010 the party has been calling for elections without really showing any concerted efforts to push through such propositions. By end of December we expected the party to fulfil one of its conference resolutions; to call for elections by end of 2012. That did not happen. Now we hear that there are contentions in the party of those who are really serious about 2013 elections and those who would want to employ every trick to push them way beyond this year. By continuously calling for elections and projecting the picture that it is the only party ready for them; ZANU-PF could be faking the motions.

Therefore by refusing to yield to external funding for the elections when the party knows too well that there are no internal resources; this could really be part of the "play hardball" strategy. To enhance its strategy; ZANU-PF could therefore have let Tsvangirai out to take the lead role in handling ZEC processes. From a distance the party will continue resisting external funding and yet push for Tsvangirai and ZEC to perform on delivering an election in 2013.

ZANU-PF will also be hoping that given MDC-T's desperation for an election; the party will accept election process comprises based on lack of funding. We are told that ZEC had initially budgeted for constituency delimitation process. According to Joyce Kazembe, that has now been eliminated due to lack of funding. Now we see the voter registration process being delayed; again due to funding challenges. Who knows if the voter registration process is going to be fully and effectively undertaken; given the scrappy funding mechanism in place? What other key election process issues will be compromised due to lack of funding? We also hear that the electronic system that is supposed to timeously transmit results from voting centres to central command is also under threat from lack of funding.

Probably there are more compromises along the way; which will inevitably weaken the election process. Should this happen it will obviously benefit ZANU-PF more than the MDC parties. ZANU-PF will either enter an election which has weak mechanisms or will benefit from the delay of an election; blamed on poor funding and its downstream effects.

Against what I have always thought since 2010; ZANU-PF does not seem desperate for an election. The party's strategy seems bent on setting up the election process to fail. More importantly it's not merely about the failure of the election process; but more about PM Tsvangirai's failure to charge ZEC towards holding a credible election. ZANU-PF is out to prove that PM Tsvangirai is not able to implement what he has always been calling for; efficient operations at ZEC. Will PM Tsvangirai fail in this quest? The way he was fuming against Chinamasa's statement and on the failure to kick-start voter registration in early January is indicative of a man with resolve not to flop. We hear PM Tsvangirai has instructed his lieutenants at the Ministry of Finance to find the money "through thick and thin". We know they will run around; whether they find it or not is another twist.

However, we are sure that if ZANU-PF really wanted to raise money for elections; the party will do that overnight. We know from which mining fields they can do that! For the moment, the question that sticks out is; has PM Tsvangirai been set up to fail?

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