7 February 2013

Zimbabwe: Mugabe Softens Zuma

THE regional mediation team to Zimbabwe's political stalemate led by South African President Jacob Zuma, has softened its stance towards President Robert Mugabe's ZANU-PF party, a development which may see elections going ahead without further reforms provided there is agreement within the unity government, The Financial Gazette can exclusively reveal.

With the draft constitution having been brought to Parliament this week, all parties in government are already agreeable to its smooth passage after the intervention of the principals, President Mugabe, Prime Minister (PM) Morgan Tsvangirai, Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) leader Welshman Ncube and Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara.

The breakthrough on the stalemate which had bogged down the constitution-making process has mollified Zuma and his mediation team who had made it clear to ZANU-PF that they would not brook any election held under the Lancaster House constitution.

Zuma's stance had also found support in the Southern African Development Community (SADC), the guarantors of the power-sharing agreement that gave birth to the inclusive government.

The South African mediation team is now more concerned about nudging the Global Political Agreement (GPA) principals into elections without reforms provided there is commitment on both sides of the political divide that the polls would not be preceded by violence and anything that would produce a contested outcome.

Should that happen, ZANU-PF would have successfully delayed any political reform that had been tipped to come in place before harmonised elections which are expected to be a winner-take-all affair, as a deal on the draft constitution has now made a plebiscite a certainty.

While ZANU-PF bigwigs such as Emmerson Mnangagwa, the Defence Minister, and Patrick Chinamasa, the Justice Minister have been quoted in recent reports indicating that there would be no further reforms before elections, The Financial Gazette can reveal that SADC could give the thumbs up to elections without more reforms provided the three political parties in the GPA, ZANU-PF and the two MDC formations are singing from the same hymn book. In an apparent departure from her previous position, Lindiwe Zulu, the spokesperson of the SADC facilitation team to Zimbabwe, said yesterday as long as the GPA parties made sure that there would be no repeat of the mayhem of 2008, elections could go ahead in the country.

Previously, she had insisted that her boss, Zuma, and SADC wanted all conditions of an electoral roadmap met before elections could be held.

"The leaders of SADC and the facilitator have indicated that the three political parties should ensure that what happened in 2008 should not happen again. The parties simply have to make sure that free and fair elections are held," said Zulu in a telephone interview.

"If the three parties are comfortable with the obtaining situation in terms of reforms, and are confident that the people of Zimbabwe will not be exposed to the 2008 scenario, then SADC has no objection to the holding of elections. The main issue is that the rights of the people of Zimbabwe have to be respected," she added.

Zulu's comments come at a time when inside sources within the two formations of the MDC have told this paper that the issue of electoral reforms now appears to be dead and buried as it is no longer being discussed at the SADC facilitation team's meetings with the GPA parties. Zulu said the responsibility is on the inclusive government parties to ensure that they develop an acceptable election roadmap.

Douglas Mwonzora, the spokesperson for the MDC led by PM Tsvangirai, appeared to be confirming this development this week when he told this paper that the media had got it wrong on security sector reforms as these were dealt with in the draft constitution now before Parliament.

Chapter 11 section 208 of the draft constitution on the conduct of members of the security services reads:

(1) Members of the security services must act in accordance with this Constitution and the law.

(2) Neither the security services nor any of their members may, in the exercise of their functions --

(a) act in a partisan manner;

(b) further the interests of any political party or cause;

(c) prejudice the lawful interests of any political party or cause; or

(d) violate the fundamental rights or freedoms of any person.

(3) Members of the security services must not be active members or office-bearers of any political party or organisation.

But secretary-general of the Ncube-led MDC, Priscilla Misihairabwi-Mushonga, recently dismissed Chinamasa's claims that all electoral reforms had been put on ice until after the harmonised elections as hogwash.

She said contrary to Chinamasa's claims, an array of reforms were in the pipeline for implementation before the watershed elections expected later this year.

"An array of reforms will be made. ZANU-PF wants to give an impression that there are many hurdles so as to instill fear in the electorate that will result in voter apathy, yet in actual fact, there is no contestation. We have finished the constitution-making process and there will be a lot of work to try to reform some sections in line with the draft constitution," Misihairabwi-Mushonga said.

She said Parliament would then be tasked to complete all the necessary reforms before the expiry of its term on June 29, adding that President Mugabe was keen to have all reforms completed because the leaders of the political parties have committed themselves to peaceful elections.

ZANU-PF is desperate to win the forthcoming elections while PM Tsvangirai is confident of a clean sweep.

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