I am ready to face Mugabe in next elections: Tsvangirai


Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai said at the weekend that he is not afraid to face President Mugabe in another round of elections but called for a peacekeeping force to ensure a free and fair poll.

Tsvangirai was addressing about 5 000 supporters at a party campaign rally at Chibuku Stadium in Chitungwiza on Sunday.

Three days earlier, the 86-year old Mugabe had made a similar election declaration and confirmed he would personally face Tsvangirai in another round of the battle for the presidency.

Both men say they want elections as early as next February.

Tsvangirai said the elections should be monitored and “protected” by the region and the continent to avoid the bloodbath that characterised the 2008 presidential re-run. Mugabe however said it was not possible to rule out violence in an election although “sufficient guidance by the leadership” could avoid violence.

“What happens on the ground depends on how the parties react to each other,” Mugabe told journalists last week. “A lot can be done to avoid violence.”

Tsvangirai told cheering supporters that the present political environment, which could still prevail come next February, was not conducive for a free and fair election, and hence a peacekeeping force should be brought in.

“We agreed that within the next 18-24 months (from the formation of the inclusive government in February last year) we go for elections,” said Tsvangirai. “So far we have finished one year and there are a few months remaining.

“We are not afraid of going for an election. But we do not want elections full of violence. Let’s bring in a peacekeeping force so that we have peace and stability before the election. If we can’t do it ourselves let’s use Sadc and the AU,” said Tsvangirai.

Mugabe and Tsvangirai want to go by the dictates of the Global Political Agreement (GPA) which gave the present transitional inclusive government a two-year lifespan ending in February 2011.

The GPA says the elections should be held under a new constitution. However, the constitution-making process currently underway is far behind schedule and is unlikely to be in place by February next year.

One of the biggest impediments to the making of the new constitution is funding-which analysts say would be a big factor to consider in preparing for another round of harmonised elections. Mugabe has said whether or not the constitution-making process was successful, elections should still go ahead.

“Elections will be a product of success or failure of the constitution-making process. If the constitution succeeds, it will end up in elections — it will be an early election. And, if it fails, it will also end
up in an election,” said Mugabe.

If he defeats Tsvangirai in next year’s elections, Mugabe will be the leader of Zimbabwe until he is 92 years old.