Fresh elections loom for Zimbabwe

Ahead of next week’s regional summit to save the Zimbabwe power-sharing deal, what began as a row over a passport has escalated into the possibility of yet another round of elections for weary Zimbabweans.

Opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai was due to meet the executive members of the MDC this week, in a meeting which a spokesperson said could see his withdrawal from the power-sharing agreement and a call for new elections.

If this happens, Zimbabwe could be holding its eighth poll in as many years.

MDC spokesperson Nelson Chamisa said: “Our national executive committee will meet before Friday to decide on the way forward, although I must hasten to say there is growing consensus for us to withdraw from the September 15 deal.
Our structures are now calling for a fresh presidential election. They are of the opinion that a fresh election is the way forward.”

This week the government of Botswana also called for new elections.

Tsvangirai will not meet any resistance from the hardline ranks of Zanu-PF if he decides to pull out of the agreement. Jabulani Sibanda, leader of the radical war veterans’ movement, has called for Robert Mugabe to stop talking to the MDC and form a government.

“The nation will take action to defend itself from Tsvangirai,” he said.

Sibanda is a fervent Mugabe ally and headed a violent campaign last year to purge internal Zanu-PF opposition to Mugabe’s re-election as party leader.

As editorials in state media became more strident in their calls for Mugabe to ditch the deal and form a government, senior Tsvangirai supporters were also ratcheting up pressure on their leader to boycott next Monday’s summit, withdraw from the deal and seek a new election.

The power-sharing agreement is unravelling over which party gets control over the home affairs ministry—under which the police fall—despite Mugabe making an important concession by yielding the finance ministry.

Tsvangirai refused to attend this week’s summit in Mbabane, Swaziland, angry at the Zimbabwean government’s refusal to issue him with a passport. But others have reported anger within the MDC over a report, said to have been prepared by South African mediator Thabo Mbeki, which backs Mugabe’s allocation of ministries. “To the extent possible, all the parties have been allocated portfolios, which allow them to have a presence in each of the priority sectors,” said a report, which was circulating among MDC officials ahead of the Mbabane summit.

The “priority sectors” are listed as the restoration of economic stability, delivery of social services, the rule of law, adoption of a new Constitution, the land question, restructuring state organs and institutions and national healing, cohesion and unity.

There has been no comment from Mbeki on the document.

While the pressure mounts on both Mugabe and Tsvangirai to withdraw from the deal, political analysts are split over which of the two men would suffer the most damage from such a decision. Many believe Mugabe has little left to lose, while Tsvangirai is still seeking to build relations with African leaders who are still wary of him. “It would be a dangerous mistake for [Tsvangirai] to be labelled a spoiler by both the SADC [Southern African Development Community] and the AU [African Union],” said Eldred Masunungure, a political analyst.

There is also debate over whether either of the two main parties is prepared for a new round of elections, or if Zimbabweans themselves want to be put through another round of what could well be even more violent campaigning.

The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission, discredited for a month-long delay in releasing results in March, stoked the fires this week by announcing it was preparing to hold by-elections in five constituencies, against a clause in the September 15 power-sharing agreement that stays such elections for a year.

Herald: Tsvangirai’s passport woes justified
Zimbabwe’s state-owned Herald newspaper, which normally reflects official thinking, has said opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai should be the last person to get a passport.

In an editorial, titled”, Morgan should be the last to get a passport”, the paper accused Tsvangirai of campaigning for Western sanctions against Zimbabwe, which, it said, had crippled every sector of society, including the passport office.

The newspaper said Tsvangirai—who refused to travel to a regional summit on Monday to discuss Zimbabwe’s deadlocked power-sharing deal unless he was issued with a passport—did not deserve any special treatment from the registrar general’s department, which issues passports.

“Why does he want special treatment when he campaigned for the sanctions that have affected every sector of society including the passport office?”, the editorial read.

The Herald said Tsvangirai should have travelled to Swaziland using an emergency travel document (ETD) as he has often done in the past.

“Would he be the only Zimbabwean travelling on an ETD?” it asked. “We hope African leaders have seen for themselves the kind of opposition we are trying to rehabilitate into national leadership in Zimbabwe.

“Shortage of passports aside, Tsvangirai should be the last person to get a passport, and only after he condemns the sanctions that have constrained the registrar-general’s capacity to meet the national demand for passports.”

Because of Tsvangirai’s failure to travel to Mbabane, regional leaders will try to meet in Harare on Monday next week to find a solution to the troubled Southern African nation’s deepening crisis.—Zimonline

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