PRESIDENT Robert Mugabe has been dared by South Africa to go ahead with elections next month or risk isolation in the region.
Report by Nduduzo Tshuma
Mugabe has been pressing for elections at the end of next month, but statements by South African International Affairs deputy minister Ebrahim Ebrahim that Zimbabwe could not go for elections without key reforms, could be an indication that the regional powerhouse was getting tough on the veteran leader, analysts said.
George Charamba, Mugabe’s spokesman, yesterday could not be drawn to comment on Ebrahim’s statements and what they meant to his principal’s plans to have elections on June 29.
“We have not received any official comment from South Africa,” he said.
“We run the country not through newspapers. If South Africa has something to say, there are proper channels that are used to communicate and not through newspapers.
“We will not waste time commenting on statements published in the papers.”
But Tsholotsho North MP Jonathan Moyo was less diplomatic, describing Ebrahim as reckless.
“Ebrahim’s intrusive comments are outrageous and offensive in the extreme and they risk undermining President Jacob Zuma’s personal role as the facilitator of Sadc’s engagement in Zimbabwe,” Moyo, believed to be a Zanu PF strategist, was quoted saying.
“What is worse is that Ebrahim’s despicable comments have a sickening semblance of representing the position of the South African government given that they are coming from the loud mouth of that country’s Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs.”
Political analysts said Ebrahim’s comments were a wake-up call for Mugabe and his Zanu PF party.
Dumisani Nkomo, of Habakkuk Trust, said the statements were likely to shift Zanu PF towards “reality” that it was impossible to hold elections in June.
“The South African position is consistent with the Sadc position and is in consonance with common sense because holding an election in June is practically, legislatively and logistically impossible,” he said. “The election roadmap is clear that all issues in the Global Political Agreement should be implemented.”
Matabeleland Constitutional Reform Agenda director Effie Ncube said Ebrahim’s statement was a powerful intervention by South Africa towards the democratisation of the country.
“Zanu PF will be dismissing the statements, but they know that without the support of South Africa, it will impossible to hold elections,” he said.
“If they go on to hold elections without South Africa’s support, Sadc and the African Union will not recognise them, bringing Zanu PF back to square one.”
Political analyst Trevor Maisiri said Ebrahim’s sentiments were in accordance with South Africa’s stance on elections in the country.
“A June election looks like it’s off the cards for the meantime,” he said. “Zanu PF and Mugabe are aware of that.
“However, they will continue clamouring for a June election for some time.
“At a later stage, they will then climb down. That climbdown will, however, be strategic.”
Maisiri, of the International Crisis Group, said Zanu PF would climb down to give an impression of having given up their initial position for the sake of progress.
“Zanu PF is synonymous with making shocking demands and sustaining them for a time, by the time they retract, everyone sees them as having progressed,” he said.
“It is a time-buying ploy and it worked in the constitution-making process and they will likely use it in the election date debate.”
Mugabe has said he will announce an election date this week.