Magazine article New African

Zimbabwe: Come Rain or Shine, Elections Will Be in March

Magazine article New African

Zimbabwe: Come Rain or Shine, Elections Will Be in March

Article excerpt

One month to Zimbabwe's March elections, Morgan Tsvangirai's faction of the divided MDC opposition appears to be backing out of the deals reached at the inter-party talks mediated by South Africa, and even threatening to boycott the elections if certain conditions are not met. Mabasa Sasa reports from Harare.

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The ruling Zanu PF party and the two MDC opposition camps are increasingly bickering over who is to blame over the stymied progress of inter-party talks. A few months ago, the nation was expectant that an internal political settlement that would effectively end the eight-year war of attrition was as good as reached, but events over the past two months point towards a descent back to the extreme polarisation that has characterised the political landscape since 1999.

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From agreeing to co-sponsor a constitutional amendment that paved the way for the harmonisation of presidential, legislative and civic elections in March 2008, Zanu PF and the two MDC formations have of late been involved in some serious mudslinging that has virtually eroded the goodwill, painstakingly built over the past year.

At its summit in Tanzania last March, the SADC mandated the South African president, Thabo Mbeki, to facilitate dialogue between President Robert Mugabe's Zanu PF and the two MDC factions led by Morgan Tsvangirai and Prof Arthur Mutambara, after a spate of running battles between opposition supporters and police officers.

But since the co-sponsorship of a constitutional amendment, there has been little to write home about regarding the talks. Conflicting statements have been emanating from the Tsvangirai group pertaining to their commitment to dialogue.

Since late last year, Tsvangirai has been calling for a postponement of the March 2008 harmonised elections--even though his secretary-general Tendai Biti appended his signature to the agreement for polls to be held in March. But Tsvangirai's inner circle has been threatening to boycott the elections if certain conditions are not met.

These include the re-registration of all voters, a re-constitution of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission, re-delimination of constituency boundaries and, more importantly, the introduction of a brand new Constitution.

Nelson Chamisa, the Tsvangirai faction spokesperson, has told New African that while they were "prepared for elections anytime", they were not happy with the electoral environment. Interestingly though, the Mutambara faction of the MDC appears satisfied with the manner in which things have progressed and their spokesperson, Gabriel Chaibva, is in fact adamant that elections should be held in March as constitutionally mandated and as agreed in the talks.

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And this dissonance in policy co-ordination also puts a dent in the hopes that the two factions will reunite any time soon.

Says Chaibva: "Way back in February 2007, we said that we want elections held in March [2008] as provided for by the constitution. Our position remains the same and we are saying 'let's get on with this'.

"We want the elections held on time and Zimbabwe cannot stand another disputed poll. The legislative environment has been dealt with and of course we still have concerns with some other electoral issues. But if we look at them and believe that there has been positive progress, then by all means we should go ahead with the elections."

In line with this thinking, the two MDC formations have said they will hold a total of over 300 rallies countrywide over the next month, a strategy which analysts say points to the opposition's willingness to participate in the elections. Unconfirmed reports also say that hundreds of vehicles have been bought for the opposition by its foreign allies to be used for campaign purposes.

However, in mid-January, the opposition said it was going to organise a series of demonstrations aimed at getting the elections postponed and a new constitution put in place immediately. …

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