Zimbabwe: Mugabe Elections Rush in Disarray

PRESIDENT Robert Mugabe will be on the ropes this weekend as he faces close scrutiny at the Sadc troika on politics, defence and security and the African Union (AU) peace and security council meetings less than two weeks before crucial general elections set for July 31.

Sadc and the AU, guarantors of the now abandoned Global Political Agreement (GPA) and attendant roadmap towards elections, will meet to discuss Zimbabwe's state of preparedness for elections today and tomorrow amid unfolding chaos engulfing the electoral process following a messy and rushed mainly due to lack of funding and capacity within the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec).

The AU meeting will be held today in Addis Ababa, the Sadc one will on tomorrow in Pretoria. The two meetings are expected to scrutinise Zimbabwe's electoral processes and make defining resolutions on the issue.

In an interview with the Zimbabwe Independent yesterday, South African President Jacob Zuma's international relations advisor Lindiwe Zulu, who is part of his facilitation team, said the troika will assess Zimbabwe's preparedness ahead of elections as well as review progress made on issues highlighted during its last meeting.

"We are going to have a troika meeting over the weekend and Zimbabwe will top our agenda since the country is going to hold elections at the end of this month," said Zulu. "We want to check on the progress that has been made in terms of preparations for the elections and also get an update on the preliminary report from the Sadc observer mission team."

Sadc has deployed a 600-observer team - its largest contingent of election observers ever - to check if the country was ready for polls. The AU also has 60 observers.

Sadc troika chairperson, Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete will convene the meeting which will be attended by Zuma in his capacity as the Sadc facilitator on Zimbabwe. Namibian President Hifikepunye Pohamba also sits on the troika.

South Africa's Department of International Relations and Co-operation spokesperson Clayson Monyela said Zimbabwean political parties were not invited for the troika meeting despite complaints by the MDC formations over the current chaotic electoral process.

"It is a troika meeting and only members of the troika will take part and not political parties," Monyela said.

Zulu, recently insulted by Mugabe as an "ordinary, stupid, idiotic street woman", said the troika will also discuss, among other things, the political and security situation in Zimbabwe as the country marches towards elections and review the resolutions made at its last in Cape Town in May and the Pretoria summit in April.

The troika summit in May commended Zuma for his efforts in pushing for full implementation of the GPA to ensure a credible, free and fair constitutional referendum on March 16.

However, the troika urged the parties to the GPA, Zanu PF, MDC-T and MDC, to finalise outstanding reforms and follow the roadmap to hold free and fair elections.

The Sadc troika and AU security council meetings come against the backdrop of the Sadc extraordinary summit in Maputo last month where Zimbabwe was urged to prepare for peaceful and credible elections.

It also said government should approach the Constitutional Court to seek an extension of the polls date and go to parliament to regularise Mugabe's illegal amendments to the Electoral Act.

Government went to court - which always ruling in favour of the executive on key electoral matters - and the application was dismissed, endorsing Mugabe's actions.

Mugabe said he would be sending Justice minister Patrick Chinamasa to Addis Ababa after accusing the two MDC parties earlier this week on reporting him to the continental body, a charge they rejected.

African diplomats in Harare say Mugabe's dispatch of Chinamasa to the AU meeting is a desperate attempt to ensure the July 31 elections go ahead in the midst of chaos and fears of vote rigging.

"Mugabe was the first leader locally to talk about the AU meeting in Addis Ababa this week as he was trying to pre-empt its discussions.

Knowing that there was going to be a Sadc troika summit in Pretoria, he was trying to outflank the increasingly firm regional leaders who are insisting on free and fair elections in Zimbabwe," an African diplomat told the Independent yesterday.

"Just like he did when he invited Malawian President Joyce Banda to Harare recently as he she is going to the next Sadc chairperson just after elections next month and visited Lesotho this week for diplomatic lobbying under the guise of King Letsie III's birthday celebrations, Mugabe would be sending Chinamasa to lobby the AU Commission chaired by former South African president Thabo Mbeki's right hand minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, the AU security council and the AU itself currently chaired Ethiopia's Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn. Remember Mbeki will head the AU observer mission."

Mugabe has always enjoyed good relations with Ethiopian leaders, right from the days of Mengistu Haile Mariam who was given asylum in Harare after he was ousted in 1991. Hailemariam has been AU chairman since January.

Together with Sadc, the AU is a guarantor of the GPA. Mugabe attend the AU summit in Sharm el-Sheik in June 2008 a few days after his controversial re-election widely rejected by Sadc and the continental body, as well as the international community.

Sadc, under Mbeki's leadership, brokered the GPA agreement leading for the formation of the coalition in 2009 to prepare for free and fair elections, a task it has dismally failed as shown by the current situation.

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