TOP local academic and publisher Ibbo Mandaza has castigated President Robert Mugabe for clinging onto power and effectively turning the country into a "monarchy".
Mandaza speaking at an event during the week as part of a dozen experts and academics hired by the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) to give their reflections on the July 31, 2013 elections.
ZEC said it wanted to use the feedback from stakeholders to plan for the upcoming 2018 polls.
Mandaza obliged and did not mince his words during the closing stages of the three-day conference Wednesday.
He said Zanu PF under Mugabe's leadership had reduced the State to a virtual party tool where it was now impossible for State institutions like ZEC to be impartial.
"This problem of the conflation between the ruling party and the State is problematic," Mandaza said.
"It is inimical to democratic discourse. It is inimical to free and fair elections because it means that the leadership is usually monarchical. Monarchical means you are there for life ... we have it here in Zimbabwe, don't we?
"When you have monarchical tendencies, when you have conflation of State and party how do you talk about free and meaningful elections? It's a non-starter.
"In this situation, it means national institutions become compromised including ZEC notwithstanding the very professional people within it. It's very difficult in the current atmosphere to be non-partisan."
The candid comments by Mandaza elicited a strong rebuttal from Zanu PF senator and chiefs representative in the legislature, Chief Fortune Charumbira who said Mugabe's opponents were bitter losers.
"There is this catastrophic thinking that when you don't win elections, even the country and the people should die ... people should be prepared to win and to lose," he said.
"As long as we don't do that in Africa, we will always have conflicts."
In his remarks, Mandaza had accused politicians of reducing the country's electoral processes to a virtual call to war and suggested that elections be replaced by a safer method of choosing leaders.
"Elections can't be very exciting in our country," he said, "Each time the elections come up, its regimentation; whether it's the ruling party or the opposition party, its regimentation.
"There is a call for conformity and if you don't, you are a rebel. And therefore the spectre of violence is a reality in almost every election across the continent. Zimbabwe needs to think of other ways of changing leaders without resorting to elections."
Mandaza called on those who have interest in the country's elections to accept the reality that Zimbabwe's past three polls have been disputed and "we should not gloss over it. It's a sad indictment."
He further accused opposition political parties for sprouting days before elections and disappearing immediately after, adding that they were not grounded on strong ideological leanings.
"They are vacuous in terms of organisation; vacuous in terms of ideology of message," he said.
Mandaza contested the 2008 parliamentary elections as a candidate for former Finance Minister Simba Makoni's Mavambo party, in what turned out to be a losing cause.