Leaders of political parties opposing Zanu-PF today said they will participate in national elections this year only after security and other key sector reforms are implemented. This means the parties will push to delay the election that the Constitutional Court last week said must be held by July 31st.
The political leadership of Zapu, Mavambo Kusile Dawn, Zanu-Ndonga and the MDC-T and MDC-N formations met in Harare today to discuss the election roadmap and possible joint recommendations to the Southern Africa Development Community, which will hold a special summit on Zimbabwe on June 9th in Maputo, Mozambique.
No Reforms, No Election
Speaking at a news conference after the meeting, Prime Minister and MDC-T leader Morgan Tsvangirai said the parties agreed to participate in the election only after outstanding issues of the power-sharing agreement are implemented.
“The leaders have said their commitment and readiness to participate in a credible, free, and fair election after the implementation of the necessary reforms,” Mr. Tsvangirai said, reading from a list of joint resolutions.
Tsvangirai said security and other key sector reforms, including adjustments to the electoral laws, must be instituted before polls are conducted.
“Prior to the holding of elections,” the Prime Minister said, “amendments must be affected to the electoral law and other laws that have a bearing on elections. Examples of such laws include POSA, IEPA, which impact on free political activity in terms of freedom of association and movement, expression, and the media.”
Constitutional Court Blasted for July 31 Date
Noting the upcoming summit in Maputo, Tsvangirai blasted the Constitutional Court for its decision last week, arguing that the rights of millions of Zimbabwean voters were violated to safeguard the right of the applicant.
“The leaders expressed reservations about the practicalities of the July 31st deadline set by the court and resolved that they will communicate their position to SADC,” he said. “The parties, therefore, look forward to the extraordinary SADC summit to affirm previous SADC resolutions and agreed roadmap to elections. They noted that the court action, ironically, supposedly informed by the desire to safeguard the right of an individual applicant, has resulted in the infringement of the rights of millions of Zimbabweans—in particular, the right of eligible voters to have adequate time to register to vote and elect a government of their choice, in a free and fair environment.”
Tsvangirai added that an election date should be fixed according to the law, and not simply declared by President Robert Mugabe unilaterally. Mr. Mugabe has indicated that he will comply with the court ruling and declare an election date earlier than July 31st. Mr. Tsvangirai, however, questioned the president’s statements.
“I doubt whether that position is sincere. If the question of the respecting the rule of law and court decisions is anything to go by, I’m sure it’s a dishonest position. Tell you what: in 2002, we went to an election, and I challenged the result of 2002. Up to now the court has not even heard the case. So where is the rule of law respect that he is talking about? And I am sure that if he was questioned that if he’s committed to the rule of law, it must apply in all cases, and not to change the law to suit yourself. So we can’t change goalposts when it comes to the law. The law cannot be applied selectively. It has to apply in all cases.”
Other parties also criticized last week’s Constitutional Court ruling that an election must come before the end of July. The deputy president of the Welshman Ncube-led MDC formation, Edwin Mushoriwa, said the court should rethink its decision and extend the July 31st date, arguing that it already allowed an extension for by-elections.
“The Supreme Court made a decision to say the by-elections could not be done,” Mr. Mushoriwa said. “They should be done within a prescribed time. But the same president went to the high court seeking an extension and if a precedent has already been set, I believe it is possible to do the same.”
A Sign of Greater Opposition Unity?
When asked whether the parties would form a grand coalition ahead of elections, MKD leader Simba Makoni hinted that the parties will cooperate whenever there is clear, widespread benefit for Zimbabweans.
“We and the organizations that we lead are committed to working together both among ourselves and with others like-minded in order to improve the conditions of the life of Zimbabweans,” said Mr. Makoni. “We have cooperated on this one matter today because we have judged it important that we should work together. When such similar, other matters present themselves, we will not hesitate to work together again in order to bring benefits to the people of Zimbabwe.”
Voter Registration Details Remain Unclear
Meanwhile, political party representatives met with the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) and expressed concerns that too many Zimbabweans remain unaware of how the mobile voter registration exercise will be rolled out.
MDC-T’s Secretary for Elections, Seseil Zvidzai, told the meeting that his party is concerned with ZEC’s voter educators. He also complained that it is difficult to confirm the voters roll as its current digital format.
“Process is as important…process actually determines the outcome,” said Mr. Zvidzai. “Who are these voter educators? How have they been recruited? Are they partisan or are they not partisan? Can we look at a list of those people and actually inspect and scrutinize and see whether these are professionals who are engaged in this process. We want to know them so that we see whether they are doing their work or not, so that we can evaluate, so that we can inspect, so that we can supervise them as they do their work in the 2,000 wards in the country.”
In response, ZEC deputy chairperson Joice Kazembe said the voter educators her commission deployed countrywide today were drawn from a list of civil servants submitted to the electoral body by the Public Service Commission.
Mr. Tsvangirai also met personally with ZEC officials to discuss the commission’s preparedness to conduct the mobile voter registration exercise and elections thereafter.
In Harare, the South African facilitation team Wednesday met with negotiators from the three political parties in the unity government ahead of Sunday’s SADC summit.
Led by Charles Nqakula, the team Tuesday held meetings with the Joint Monitoring and Implementation Committee (JOMIC) on the situation on the ground and related issues.
Mr. Zuma’s international relations advisor, Lindiwe Zulu, spokesperson for the facilitation team, told VOA that outstanding GPA issues should be resolved ahead of elections.
Zanu-PF sources say President Mugabe will tell the summit that there’s no need for further reforms. Mr. Mugabe, the sources say, will insist that the party that wins the election can reform the security sector and institute other reforms.
Prime Minister Tsvangirai has in the meantime dispatched his secretary for international affairs, Jameson Timba, to lobby regional leaders ahead of the crucial summit.
Political analyst, Trevor Maisiri of the International Crisis Group says SADC must press Harare for more democratic reforms ahead of elections.