The ludicrous election season is upon us

Posted: October 7, 2012 in Uncategorized

By Njabulo Ncube, Assistant Editor (Financial Gazette)

POLITICAL violence reared its ugly head at the weekend as ZANU-PF and Movement for Democratic Change (MDC-T) supporters clashed in Shangani, about 100 kilometres from Bulawayo, heightening fears of yet another bloody plebiscite as the country pushes to hold elections next year.
Weekend reports say three MDC-T supporters were seriously injured after their hired buses were attacked by alleged ZANU-PF supporters, among them suspected war veterans.
The injured were admitted at Gweru General Hospital while others suffered minor injuries.
Prime Minister (PM) Morgan Tsvangirai, whose party celebrated its 13th anniversary in Bulawayo, visited some of the injured and expressed disgust over what he viewed as “barbaric action by ZANU-PF thugs”.
There were no reports of any arrests despite heavy police presence, which led to the rampaging mob being tear-gassed.
The violence that erupted in Shangani is viewed by political observers as a continuation of the culture of impunity that has pervaded Zimbabwe’s political landscape in the past decade.
Human rights groups have for the past few months been sounding the alarm bells, chronicling incidents of politically-motivated violence against perceived enemies of ZANU-PF in Mashonaland provinces.
For instance, a few weeks ago supporters of Welshman Ncube’s MDC party were assaulted after a rally in Mutoko, while others were beaten up in Zvimba, President Robert Mugabe’s home area.
In Darwendale, MDC-T secretary general Tendai Biti was recently forced to hold a rally at a cemetery after soldiers and ZANU-PF supporters invaded a football pitch that had been pre-booked for the event by the labour-backed party.
Critics say the spectre of political violence reminiscent of the March/June 2008 polls is seen looming large as elections near.
The skirmishes in Shangani came barely three days after the incumbent made a passionate plea at the Harare High Court to be allowed to call for polls in March 2013, signalling the probable start of the silly election season which, in this part of the world, is characterised by violence of unimaginable proportions.
Although there were no deaths recorded during the weekend, the Shangani skirmishes sent shivers down the spines of election-weary Zimbabweans, particularly rural dwellers who endured the horrors of March-June 2008 elections.
The MDC-T claimed more than 200 of its supporters were killed during or in the run-up to the 2008 harmonised elections.
The coming six-months could again throw the country into a highly-charged political oven, as the major gladiators in the political landscape fight for the hearts and minds of the electorate.
President Mugabe’s nemesis, PM Tsvangirai, is at odds with the 88-year-old leader on when elections must be held.
The premier told his party faithful in Bulawayo at the weekend that elections should only be held after the implementation of the agreed election roadmap and when all requisite reforms necessarily to the creation of a free and fair election environment have been attended to.
He said no party or individual had the right to call for an election unilaterally and that the next election could only be called by the parties in consultation with each other.
Trevor Maisiri, a political analyst, said it was impossible for President Mugabe to impose election dates without consulting his coalition partners.
“So uncertainty still exists unless the other two principals and the Southern African Development Community concur to such (election) timing,” he said.
He however, said given that ZANU-PF’s calls for elections in 2010, 2011 and 2012 yielded nothing, this time around the party would be resolute about the March 2013 election.
“However, given the gridlock in the Government of National Unity and the stalling of reforms, I do not think six months will deliver any significant reforms for a free and fair election —  unless there is a new vein of political will. Without political will, even another five years will not produce the pre-requisite reforms,” he said.
Mathula Lusinga, another political analyst, concurred with Maisiri that the election timeline proposed by the President was not realistic in view of the fact that the nation is still struggling to cope with demands of finalising a new constitution and that the inclusive government is broke.
“We have a coalition government that is seemingly on the verge of reversing the gains made by the Global Political Agreement. There is a total disagreement on almost everything,” he said.
Despite the establishment of a coalition government in February 2009, there is still growing intolerance among citizens. Reports coming from the countryside are painting a picture of panic on the part of ZANU-PF.
“This is not a promising order for a conducive environment. To add onto this, we still have a voter’s roll that no one has checked to see if it is up to date. Political intimidation is on the rise and we were promised that all these things would be fixed before we go to elections but today the reality tells us they are not,” said Lusinga.
Others postulate that President Mugabe could be trying to divert attention from the on-going constitution-making process, which his party has never taken seriously since it started while at the same time creating confusion and panic amongst his opponents.
However, the party’s tricky succession issue, President Mugabe’s advancing age and concerns around his health are seen complicating ZANU-PF’s election call.




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