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Zimbabwe's Opposition Warns West Not to Fully Engage Harare

Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe and MDC Leader Morgan Tsvangirai. Collage by Ntungamili Nkomo.

Zimbabwe’s main opposition political party, the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) formation of former Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, on Tuesday appealed to the international community not to fully engage with Harare until President Robert Mugabe’s government has overhauled the country's electoral system, among other issues, including media and judicial reforms.

Relations between Harare and the European Union have been thawing lately with the EU giving Harare more than $270 million last week to fund its programs after a decade of frosty ties.

Investors from various European countries, including France, the United Kingdom and Russia, have been in Zimbabwe recently seeking business opportunities.

The MDC-T says admitting the ruling Zanu PF government fully into the comity of nations may be disastrous.

“It would be absolutely folly of the international community to fully reintegrate the Zanu PF regime into the comity of nations if all these conditions have not been met,” said MDC-T spokesman Obert Gutu.

“We are dealing with a rogue regime here that is not only a danger to itself but the generality of the people.”

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But Zanu PF’s Information Director, Psychology Maziwisa, dismissed the MDC-T’s latest set of demands saying the party is desperately seeking attention after losing political ground in the 2013 national elections.

“I don’t understand what they are on about – I really feel sorry and empathize with them,” he said.

“Because each time they lose elections they resort to desperate means of getting attention but they need to get over it and realize that they don’t call the shots anymore, especially in the international community.”

Maziwisa said the MDC-T feels alienated by the West which once supported “their regime change agenda”.

“The international community feels that they have let them down as far as the regime change agenda in Zimbabwe is concerned,” he said.

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Among the minimum demands for the resumption of normal diplomatic and economic relations with the Zimbabwe government that the MDC-T has set is the need for Harare to align the country’s laws with the new constitution, review media laws and remove from the statute books laws that hinder the work of the media.

The party also wants Mr. Mugabe to overhaul electoral laws in the country, including making sure that all eligible voters are all registered in time for the 2018 national elections.

Judicial Reforms

“A Judicial Review Commission must be appointed to review the appointment of all judicial officers in the court system, make recommendations on the retirement and removal of judicial officers who do not qualify for such posts on the grounds of bias, unprofessional behavior and inadequate qualifications and experience,” Gutu said.

He added that there must be a detailed review of how the membership of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission is appointed, adding a review of ZEC should also be undertaken to ensure it performs its functions in a professional and non-partisan manner.

Gutu says this exercise must be completed by the end of 2015.

“There must also be a complete overhaul of all legislation controlling the media industry so as to restrict State interference with State-funded print and electronic media institutions,” said Gutu.

“Put simply, there must be total and unhindered freedom of the Press in conformity with the basic tenets of the new Constitution.”