Disastrous by-elections could make Mugabe's dream of an early election come true!
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â€œ..wants elections before reformsâ€
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Recently, the Supreme Court gave a green light to hold by-elections in 38 constituencies. Many of these are long overdue as not a single by-election has been held since the formation of the GNU over three years ago. This ruling was given after three former MDC legislators took the President of the country to court for delaying by-elections in their constituencies after they were dismissed from the MDC. Both formations of the MDC have welcomed the decision to have these by-elections but my question is whether there will be any regrets later, seeing that the concerns that brought about the GPA have not been fully addressed and the key reforms identified as necessary for credible elections have not been fully implemented. Recently there have been reports of increased violence and disturbance of political activities, such as for example last week's MDC T rallies that were disturbed by Zanu-PF activists in Zvimba Constituency, Mugabe's home area.
What's up the devil's sleeve?
While it is the constitutional rights of the former MPs to demand by-elections in their constituencies and the constitutional right of citizens to have representation in Parliament, some see this move as a selfish one which seeks to benefit them as individuals not the constituents. People I spoke to allude to the fact that these legislators have for so long found it hard to make ends meet as they no longer have parliamentary benefits they had when they were MPs. There are expectations that Zanu-PF will use these elections to measure their support base as they did when we voted "No" in the 2000 constitutional referendum. The No vote of 2000 served as a wakeup call for Zanu-PF, which responded by tightening its grip by deploying violence across the country. Today, Zanu-PF lives under the illusion that the successful grabbing of land from white farmers and taking over white owned companies has made them popular â€“ disregarding the negative impact on tens of thousands of black farmworkers and factory employees â€“ and thus before the next general elections, these by-elections will provide them with an opportunity to know what strategies they need.
Mugabe's dream coming true?
Another concern is that Mugabe's dream of having an early election in the near future may now come true because once the MDCs agree to by-elections they won't have any valuable defence left against participating in national elections. This week, Zanu-PF made moves to disband their Chipangano group that has been terrorising people in Harare. Many see this as a clever move designed to prepare for peaceful by elections and in turn clearing a way to woo the MDC into national elections where Zanu-PF will go back to its old ways and violent tricks. It will be too late for the MDCs to pull back as they would have legitimised the Zimbabwean electoral process by participating before implementation of the reforms they have up to now been insisting on. The other school of thought is that if Mugabe Zanu-PF can secure a majority as a result of these 38 elections, they will have the power to disband the GPA. It will be too late for anyone to do anything because apart from the fact that the coalition exists under the GPA, Zimbabwe is still a sovereign country that has sovereign rules as displayed by the high court ruling to have the by-elections.
And there will be nowhere to turn to
As with the elections, where participation could undermine pressure for reforms before national elections, the recent calls by the MDC T leader to remove targeted sanctions against Zanu-PF are also adding fuel to the fire that will secure victory for Zanu-PF. The targeted sanctions were put in place to help reduce human rights abuses and it would be exaggeration to claim that this has been achieved. This might create problems in future because if the next elections turn violent, the PM will be the one again to call for targeted sanctions. But there won't be anywhere to turn to.
"Elections are long overdue. SADC said they should be held within 12 months and within 12 months can mean tomorrow," Simon Khaya-Moyo.
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