17 January 2016

Zimbabwe: Opposition Parties Plan Protests, Diplomatic Offensive to Force Electoral Reforms

TWO years before the next general elections, little progress is evident in the opposition campaign to force reforms needed, they insist, to ensure credible voting with the ruling Zanu PF blissfully ignoring pressure from its bitter rivals.

The main MDC-T opposition party and offshoots led by Welshman Ncube and Tendai Biti have boycotted recent local authority and Parliamentary by-elections to highlight the need for reforms but Zanu PF has gathered up the seats without so much as a thank you.

Towards the end of last year, MDC-T secretary general Douglas Mwonzora, while visiting party structures in the UK, told NewZimbabwe.com that they would, by December 2015, drag the ruling party "kicking and screaming" to the electoral reform table.

But December came, and is gone; Zanu PF is neither screaming nor kicking out but reigning untrammeled while the opposition whines on the margins.

"Zanu PF will not be moved by the electoral reform mantra ... and will continue to rule forever," declared vice president Emmerson Mnangagwa.

Presently, the ruling party's only serious bothers come, not from the opposition, but from within its ranks over the matter of its ageing leader who happens to turn 92 next month.

"We have made a huge amount of progress," insisted Mwonzora when asked about his 'kicking and screaming' vow.

"The first and very significant thing we have managed to do is to unite the opposition political parties," Mzonzora told NewZimbabwe.com in a recent interview.

"15 political parties have signed up to the National Electoral Reforms Agenda (NERA), committing to join the fight for electoral reforms including (former vice president Joice) Mujuru's mooted People First."

He added: "Again, and as a result of our pressure, the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) is moving to implement the reforms.

"ZEC has since contracted the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) to help with voter registration, voter education as well as the capacitation of the electoral agency."

Even so, getting the opposition united and ZEC playing ball is probably the easier part; forcing the Zanu PF-led government to possibly reform itself out of power is another matter altogether.

Mwonzora concedes the difficulty, but says the opposition coalition has other aces up its sleeves.

"Zanu PF is stubborn, arrogant; they have to be forced," he said.

How, we asked.

"We are going to stage protests to for the government to implement the changes needed for our elections to be credible," said Mwonzora.

"And for the first time, we are also going to see political parties which subscribe to the NERA programme going on a diplomatic offensive to seek support in SADC and across the continent."

However, African leaders have generally been reluctant to press President Robert Mugabe who is widely respected on the continent as a liberation icon and strong voice against western hegemony.

But Zimbabwe's decade-long economic crisis has also affected the region with probably a million of its citizens streaming across the borders into Botswana and South Africa where they are often blamed for crime and accused of taking jobs and housing from locals.

"We are going to sensitive the region and Africa that credible elections are the only way to resolve Zimbabwe's crisis," vowed Mwonzora.

"Already, we have had a positive response from the president of Botswana who is also current chair of SADC."

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