FORMER United Nations secretary-general and member of an eminent group of global statespersons known as The Elders, Kofi Annan, is reportedly planning a ground-breaking visit to Zimbabwe ahead of general elections expected in a few months’ time, NewsDay has learnt.
BY RICHARD CHIDZA
MDC-T secretary-general Douglas Mwonzora confirmed the development yesterday, adding that the Zimbabwe Institute and the Kofi Annan Foundation had jointly organised a retreat for all political parties represented in Parliament.
The meeting, scheduled for Victoria Falls this weekend, would enable legislators to debate amendments to the country’s electoral laws ahead of the crucial polls.
“It’s true, political parties represented in Parliament will meet at the weekend in Victoria Falls as part of engagement efforts ahead of elections. The meeting has been convened by The Zimbabwe Institute and the Kofi Anan Foundation,” Mwonzora said.
Annan is a respected African and global diplomat, who has consistently called for the respect of the rule of law and human rights in Zimbabwe.
At the height of Zimbabwe’s political and social crisis in 2008, the Ghanaian and his colleagues, former United States President Jimmy Carter and former South African First Lady Graça Machel, were denied visas by then President Robert Mugabe to travel to Harare to resolve the impasse between the Zanu PF leader and his MDC-T counterpart Morgan Tsvangirai.
Mugabe had just forced through a bloody run-off election from which Tsvangirai boycotted, citing persecution of his supporters by Mugabe’s State security agents.
Annan, Carter and Machel reacted angrily to the snub: “We need no red carpet treatment from the government of Zimbabwe. We seek no permission other than permission to help the poor and the desperate.”
Mugabe was forced out of power last November in the wake of a military intervention that paved the way for current President Emmerson Mnangagwa to assume the reins of power.
Mnangagwa has gone about undoing Mugabe’s international pariah image by opening up lines of engagement with all corners of the globe, including Mugabe’s avowed “enemies”.
Last month, The Elders issued a statement on Zimbabwe calling for credible, free and transparent elections.
“The concerns of civil society around rule of law, security and a fair process of electoral registration need to be heard before, during and after the elections to help ensure legitimacy,” a statement from The Elders said.
“The Elders encouraged the government of Zimbabwe to foster open dialogue with opposition representatives, civil society, the Southern African Development Community (Sadc), the African Union, the United Nations and the wider international community.”
Annan, who chairs the eminent group, was quoted as having said Zimbabwe needed national renewal.
“Zimbabwe is on the long road to recovery. The upcoming elections are an important first step on this path to democratic and civilian government, but they cannot be an end in themselves. Only a long-term process of national renewal will allow the country to reach its full potential,” the former UN chief said.
Machel reportedly weighed in, saying: “The people of Zimbabwe have suffered for too long from autocratic rule, cronyism and economic mismanagement. These challenges can be overcome if the government convenes free and fair elections and clamps down on corruption.”