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‘No elections before reforms’

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Principals to the Global Political Agreement (GPA) Monday presented a united front as they announced the country would not go for elections without a new constitution, among other reforms.

Speaking at a joint press conference at State House, President Robert Mugabe, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara also committed themselves to a non-violent election.

The principals had met to review the progress made by the inclusive government over the past 12 months.

Issues to be addressed before the polls include national healing, media, electoral, security sector, political and economic reforms.

In what appeared to be a climbdown, President Mugabe, who has previously vowed elections would be held by mid-next year whether there was a new constitution or not, said there were processes to be followed before the polls were held and these included the crafting of a new constitution.

“GPA is not a permanent establishment,” President Mugabe said.

“It is an agency we established in order to get to a situation where we can have a government elected by the people of Zimbabwe.

“. . . It is envisaged in the GPA that there will be a process towards elections. The parties have different opinions and these opinions will be discussed,” President Mugabe said.

He said the Copac management committee had presented time frames under which they could complete the constitution-making exercise, paving way for the elections.

Speaking about the elections, Tsvangirai said none of the principals could give a time frame when elections would be held as that was dependant on “processes that have to be followed.”

President Mugabe was nodding in agreement but went on to joke with journalists saying: “zvirisei sei” (the latest greeting street lingo which he uses in one of his ongoing election campaign television jingles) those present interpreted to be a suggestion he was already in an election mode.

DPM Mutambara described the GPA as a “peace agreement” adding that before the parties could abandon it they should make peace a permanent feature in the country.

He said it was important reforms take place before the debate on whether or not to hold elections.

“If we do some of those things, we minimize and reduce the occurrence of contested elections. We need to create an environment where a loser congratulates the winner and the winner forms a legitimate government”.

Tsvangirai said the election was a process-driven programme, adding the decision to hold elections could only be taken when the processes were complete.

“At the moment what we have are party positions and not a national position,” said Tsvangirai. “No one here can tell you when we will have elections”.

Turning to the issue of violence, the principals made a passionate plea to party supporters not to engage in violence when the country finally goes for polls.

President Mugabe pleaded with the media to help spread the message of peace. He said as principals they would speak against violence and hope their supporters listened.

He blamed the violence that has occurred in previous elections on petty squabbles among people on the grassroots.

“Violence takes place at the lower level when we are not there…what we want to get to the people is our own word, our own command and say no violence. The media should play a role.

“Even if we say no violence – that does not mean that everybody will listen to us. It’s sparked by little emotions.”

PM Tsvangirai said the country had to exorcise the demon of violence that characterised the 2008 elections.

“I do not think that anyone in his right frame of mind will do this…That demon (violence) must be ostracized because it’s a demon that no one wants,” said the premier.

The principals said significant progress had been made in bringing about political and economic stability adding the inclusive government was working well despite some differences.

They said it was natural that when people with divergent views worked together there would be differences.

President Mugabe and his Zanu PF were pushing for early elections next year while PM Tsvangirai and his MDC-T last week agreed that only presidential elections should be held.

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