Zim poisoned - Tsvangirai

HARARE - Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai says President Robert Mugabe’s Zanu PF is stepping up a campaign of violence and intimidation, but this will not deter voters fed up of repression and a stagnant economy.

He was briefing a Sadc facilitation team in Harare to get an update on the situation.

Tsvangirai met with President Jacob Zuma’s facilitation team at his Highlands home and told the mission that the political environment was poisoned as the reeling country edged warily toward a general vote in which Tsvangirai poses the strongest challenge to Mugabe’s 32 years in power.

Tsvangirai spoke as security officials have cancelled several MDC rallies and detained MDC officials including Elton Mangoma, a senior Tsvangirai ally who is also Energy and Power Development minister on charges of insulting Mugabe.

Mangoma was only freed after he was roughed up and a warned and cautioned statement was recorded on what Tsvangirai says are “trumped-up charges”.

The MDC leader told the facilitation team — comprising Lindiwe Zulu, Charles Nqakula and Mac Maharaj; and South Africa ambassador to Zimbabwe Vusi Mavimbela — that the Zanu PF regime was planning to use arrests to intimidate the MDC.

The deteriorating situation in Zimbabwe, where Mugabe is accused of trying to fight the poll through violence, dominated yesterday’s meeting which was also attended by Mangoma as MDC negotiator, minister of State in the PM’s Office Jameson Timba, and party spokesperson Douglas Mwonzora.

The PM reportedly told the facilitation team to take “appropriate action” to chart the roadmap to a free and fair election in Zimbabwe, and called for an immediate end to intimidation and harassment of the political opposition by Mugabe’s Zanu PF, and hate speech by the state media.

Tsvangirai said if the political violence continues, then he could kiss the troubled three-year unity government goodbye, days after the establishment was shaken by the violence that flared up in Masvingo Province.

Tsvangirai is fuming that his MDC supporters are once again coming under attack from Zanu PF militants and has threatened to quit the unity government, even though political analysts say he will not quit and it is gamesmanship to get election observers into the country.

Tsvangirai, who heads the larger MDC, had a session of frank talk with Zuma’s team.

Top South African and MDC officials have repeatedly said Zuma did not tolerate Mugabe’s repression.

Zuma has stressed the road to a free and fair election would have to take place within the framework of the power-sharing Global Political Agreement (GPA) that gave birth to the GNU.

Zuma’s team echoed that position on Thursday. Luke Tamborinyoka, Tsvangirai’s spokesperson confirmed his boss had emphasised his fear that the forthcoming All-Stakeholders’ Conference over a new constitution drafted by an inter-party parliamentary committee could degenerate into chaos given the toxic environment.

The second national conference is expected before the end of October.

“The PM had a fruitful one-and-half hour discussion with the facilitation team briefing them on developments in the country particularly on the constitution making process, reiterating his wish, which is also the wish of the Principals collectively that the All-Stakeholders’ Conference will be peaceful and non-violent,” Tamborinyoka said.

Mugabe’s Zanu PF wants over 200 amendments to the draft that dilute presidential powers, and curtail other civil liberties.

“The PM also raised other reform issues that have remained stagnant despite agreement, the general political environment which remains poisoned by the arrest of minister Mangoma as well as other key reform issues that have not been implemented,” Tamborinyoka said.

Zimbabwe’s coalition partners have failed to resolve a number of outstanding issues from the GPA, including security sector, political and media reforms.

The GNU has been credited with stabilising the economy and ending record-breaking hyperinflation, but Tsvangirai said momentum of economic recovery has been lost over the past year as election talk dangerously escalated.

The failure by the former foes to resolve outstanding power-sharing issues and to quicken the pace of political reforms has hurt the Harare government’s reconstruction programme with major Western nations refusing to release significant financial support until the coalition agreement is fully implemented.
Mugabe’s deliberate effort to radicalise the state appears to have shored up his own power in the short-term, but at a high economic and diplomatic price.

Tamborinyoka said: “And one of the issues that stick like sore thumb is the issue of media reforms where the responsible minister has simply refused to implement agreed positions.”

In the months leading up to the forthcoming elections, the state-owned Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation’s television and radio services and the government-controlled Zimbabwe Newspapers group have showed overt bias and played megaphone to Zanu PF’s whims.

Article 19 of the GPA says steps should be taken to ensure that the public media provides balanced and fair coverage to all political parties for their legitimate political activities.

Political analysts said the South African government was becoming more worried about the likelihood of an influx of more refugees from Zimbabwe, where unemployment is now running at more than 80 percent if the transition is not managed well.

The South African government has made it very clear it is very worried about a failed transition in Zimbabwe. - Gift Phiri

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