30 January 2013

Zimbabwe: MDC-T Would Prefer Elections in July

The MDC led by Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai is in favour of holding harmonized elections in July this year, the first time the party has categorically put a timeframe for the poll.

After debating the issue of elections at its weekend retreat in Nyanga, the party's national executive said its preference is to have July elections.

The party's secretary-general, Tendai Biti, said they thought this month was ideal as it was one month before the United Nations World Tourism General Assembly. This event in Victoria Falls in August will be jointly hosted by Zimbabwe and Zambia.

'We think that in all fairness it will be very important for the country to have the reforms and have the elections before the UNWTO, so as far as we are concerned as a party, July will be a good month to have this election,' Biti said in Harare on Tuesday.

Biti however stressed that the leaders of the three parties in government would make the final decision on when the polls would be held. If principals from ZANU PF and the MDC led by Welshman Ncube agree to this suggestion, it means the country has less than six months to prepare for this crucial poll.

It will be the first general election since the 2008 disputed poll that claimed the lives of more than 500 mainly MDC-T supporters, and displaced tens of thousands more.

But it's the level of preparedness that has many, including politicians and analysts, questioning whether the country is actually ready for the vote, with some suggesting a postponement to after the UN general assembly event.

Dewa Mavhinga, a UK based senior researcher with Human Rights Watch's Africa Division ( Zimbabwe and Southern Africa), said the level of preparedness has become the subject of local and international debate and, if there's one thing Zimbabwe must avoid, it's a repeat of the deadly 2008 violence.

'A new constitution is not a magic wand; partisan officials who brazenly support ZANU-PF will not turn over a new leaf over night. There is much more to be done to prepare Zimbabwe for genuinely free and fair elections that are without violence.

'This includes a full restoration of the rule of law and respect for the constitution. Police must begin to show absolute zero-tolerance to political violence through arresting all perpetrators of abuses and holding them accountable, otherwise the new constitution will just be a beautiful document paving the way to hell,' Mavhinga said.

Speaking about the elections Hopewell Gumbo, a social and economic justice activist, said: 'But there are technical challenges like finance which are not guaranteed, the voters role which is a source of contention is in shambles and time is too little to have adequate preparations if elections are to be conducted around the proposed dates.

'Added to that is the implication of the violence residue and actual reported of incidents where people like Jabulani Sibanda (war vets leader) are threatening people. That in itself is not conducive for an election,' Gumbo added.

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