Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai has threatened to boycott polls if his archrival in the shaky government of national unity President Robert Mugabe insists on holding elections this year without the premier’s consent.
President Mugabe and Zanu PF were forced into a marriage of convenience with Tsvangirai’s MDC after a disputed presidnetial election run-off in 2008 marred by violence.
“If (President) Mugabe proceeds to announce an election without my agreement, that will be a unilateral action and we as MDC will not be party to that. I do not see elections this year, probably early next year, because it’s not just a question of holding elections, it is about creating the conditions for a free and fair election,” he said.
Tsvangirai, who earlier on had concurred with President Mugabe that Zimbabwe would hold elections later this year, on Thursday told visiting German business executives he expected a vote by September on a new constitution, one of the prerequisites for an election.
He said the country would need to adopt a roadmap for the next elections.
“The roadmap is an issue (South African) President Jacob Zuma (the Sadc facilitator) is seized with and we are sure he will be calling for a troika on the roadmap soon. The facilitating team is coming next week and with that estimate, I don’t see elections this year. Once the constitution-making process is complete and a referendum is held, (President) Mugabe and I will sit down as the main parties and decide on the election date,” Tsvangirai said.
The premier’s view contradicted Zanu PF spokesperson Rugare Gumbo’s statement a fortnight ago that the country would definitely hold elections later this year “with or without a new constitution”.
On Thursday, Tsvangirai said Zimbabwe would hold a referendum on the new constitution between August and September, making it impossible to have elections by end of year.
The German delegation had expressed concern that if elections were held this year, they would scare away potential investors as election-related violence might degenerate to the pre-June 2008 presidential run-off levels.
The MDC-T says a vote this year could lead to a bloodbath and deal a heavy blow to a recovering economy crushed by hyperinflation about two years ago.
Tsvangirai said the Sadc facilitation team was expected in the country next week to deal with, among other issues, the roadmap to free and fair elections.
“We cannot have another disputed election. However, we know the people we are dealing with, they are unpredictable people. It’s not about holding elections, it’s about free and fair elections,” Tsvangirai said.
He assured the visitors the country was now a safe investment destination.
“People left because of different reasons like persecution and violence, but there are now motivations. We will not frog-march them to come back, but we are creating an environment for all to come and invest,” the PM said.