Mugabe ups the ante on elections

President Robert Mugabe has heated up the rhetoric over elections, saying he will definitely call them this year, while describing as ‘cowards’ politicians who say polls cannot be held until 2013.


He also threatened to reject South African President Jacob Zuma as facilitator for the shaky power-sharing government, formed to stop the country’s political melt-down.

The ageing ZANU PF leader told the state-run Radio Zimbabwe that, ‘they (ZANU PF) can reject Zuma in broad daylight.’ The interview will be aired on Monday ahead of his 88th birthday on Tuesday.

Mugabe said that he had already told Zuma that he could be rejected, adding: ‘We have said no, we are not forced to accept him. But we don’t want to do that (reject him), we don't want to fight each other,’ Mugabe said.

His ZANU PF party has been riled by Zuma’s facilitation team for pushing for implementation of the reforms agreed to in the Global Political Agreement.

Mugabe wants to end his partnership with long-term rival and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, insisting the arrangement, facilitated by SADC after the disputed election in 2008, was no longer workable.

But despite Mugabe’s defiant words on elections, Tsvangirai’s MDC party has said polling cannot go ahead until constitutional reforms are complete. Civil Society Organisations and human rights organisations in the country also said Zimbabwe is not yet ready to have elections.

‘Mugabe is day dreaming and he knows that. He’s merely politicking in threatening to call elections this year. There were a raft of measures put in place by SADC for elections to happen in Zimbabwe and one of them is to have a new constitution before a new poll,’ a top MDC-T official said on Monday.

The official said Tsvangirai was to meet Mugabe for their usual Monday meeting and the MDC leader would it clear to him that their party will be ready for a vote only once basic reforms have been carried out. We were unable to confirm if the meeting did actually take place or if it was cancelled at the last minute, as happened last week.

Dewa Mavhinga, regional director for the Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition told SW Radio Africa that Mugabe’s birthday interviews were just political grandstanding.

‘This has become tradition for Mugabe to say something on his birthday and most of the messages are meant for his supporters and they are clearly not policy decisions.

‘This is a birthday reflection with no policy values whatsoever. It’s not relevant and certainly not an important pronouncement,’ Mavhinga said.

Political commentator Blessing Vava told us it is clear Mugabe and his party never wanted a new constitution, as a new constitution would make it harder for them to rig the next election.

‘Besides, Mugabe is also taking into consideration his age and health. I’m sure he’s pretty much occupied with the fear that he might not be in the best of shapes when it comes to the rigours involved with electioneering,’ Vava said.

Political blogger Lenox Mhlanga said he believes Mugabe wants early elections before the new constitution is out: ‘ZANU PF believes elections under the current conditions, with all the oppressive laws like AIPPA and POSA still in place, would give them an advantage over MDC.

‘Mugabe is just posturing knowing full well he will lose any election. He wants to give the impression that he is for elections while the MDC is perceived to be reluctant because they fear losing,’ Mhlanga said.

Mugabe may also have angered many in his party by insisting he will not step down because he has not found a successor. He said grooming a successor would ‘cause much more divisions within the party.’ He has been on the throne since independence in 1980 and at the helm of ZANU PF since 1976.

The Parliamentary management committee spearheading the drafting of a new constitution and the COPAC team overseeing the process will also meet in Harare on Monday night to review progress. SW Radio Africa is reliably informed the meeting, if all parties are in agreement, might come up with a date or month for a referendum. – SW Radio Africa News

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