HomeOpinion & AnalysisColumnistsCaterpillars may well be in order

Caterpillars may well be in order

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Last Friday President Mugabe made it crystal clear he is going to order elections be held early next year — whether or not other political parties, or anybody else for that matter, liked it.

Report by Tangai Chipangura

Clearly exasperated by demands for a level electoral playing field, Mugabe claimed the political environment in Zimbabwe could not be better than it already is.

Did the MDC parties want earthmoving caterpillars to level the ground, he asked.

But then, the President should accept the fact that if indeed, as is the case, the environment is not conducive, if the polls are going to be bloody and the vote is at the risk of theft, then his competitors and the citizens of this country have the right to call for caterpillars to make things right.

There is no evidence at all that the prevailing political atmosphere is safe enough for voters to openly declare support for political parties of their choice or that the ballot will not be stolen, or that if certain candidates were to win in the event of a free and fair election, the result will be accepted by those that hold the guns.

There are also issues to do with basic logistics of running an election, issues that require resources and time to ensure the elections are held in an environment that upholds democracy.

One thing for sure and which Mugabe and his party know is that Morgan Tsvangirai and Welshman Ncube will demand the caterpillars to bring electoral and other reforms that have already been agreed on — and to ensure respect of the people’s wishes regarding issues of devolution, Diaspora votes, the National Prosecuting Authority, the Constitutional Court etc.

The longer Zanu PF remains in denial, the less the chances for Mugabe to make history by being the oldest human being to contest an election.

Even Gideon Gono, President Mugabe’s chief financial advisor, has said Zimbabwe’s economy could not sustain an election.

“In deciding when and whether or not to hold elections, a fine balance may need to be struck between the twin objectives of politics and the economy,” Gono said not so long back.

“Put differently, the economy favours no elections for now, while political dynamics and imperatives may favour or dictate otherwise.”
Tendai Biti, MDC-T’s secretary general and Finance minister, warned there would be “bloodbath” if elections were held without an agreed roadmap. He said if, as Zanu PF is determined to do, an election is held by force, there would be “disastrous, debilitating consequences” — a repeat of June 27, 2008!

“The tell-tale signs are already there that you could have another bloodbath,” Biti said.

. . . “If citizens feel that this is not an election, this is a sham and an excuse for assaulting us or torturing us, of killing us, of destroying our livestock, there will be capital flight, there will be physical flight across the border,” he said.

“If that is the case, yes, there will be disastrous, debilitating consequences. All the work we have done, all the construction we have done, will dissipate . . . in seconds.”

But Mugabe’s utterances about “caterpillars” clearly showed he is deaf to all these warnings. His desire for “emergency elections” has reached orgasmic levels. No amount of reason can turn him on this suicidal path.

That previous such election tomfoolery — the June 27 2008 fiasco — yielded only violence and death appears to be a long forgotten nightmare to Mugabe.

But the tragedy is, while he is free to push his party over the cliff, he must not take unwilling citizens along.

Even when he knows Zimbabweans will reject a one-man or one-party race and no one will legitimise such a farce, Mugabe, for reasons known to his party and him, was on Friday saying: “We will proceed. We are sailing on the road to elections in March. Those who do not want we will not force.”

But can the region, the continent and the world watch while a single political party plots this kind of premeditated mayhem, bloodshed and murder, just for political survival?

Sadc leaders are aware of what is happening in Zimbabwe and should not allow a member state to get away with murderous intransigence in the name of sovereignty.

There is no one party in the inclusive government that can claim unilateral authority to call for elections.

If Mugabe and his party are so obsessed with elections to the extent they are prepared to go it alone, they are free to have their own extraordinary mini congress any time anywhere, even in Malaysia if they want, and elect their new leadership to replace the current one which is clearly well beyond its sell-by date.

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