Zanu PF in poll panic

HARARE - President Robert Mugabe’s Zanu PF is in panic mode as the much-anticipated elections beckon with senior members issuing threats of bloodshed.

Two senior Zanu PF politburo members Patrick Chinamasa and Rugare Gumbo have insinuated that the military would intervene and stage a coup if Mugabe, in power since 1980, loses elections that are slated for March next year.

Chinamasa, who is also Zanu PF chief negotiator in on-going political talks, said the army will not allow Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, who does not have liberation war credentials, to take power even if he defeats Mugabe in an election.

Gumbo last week said Zimbabwe will implode into another Libya if Zanu PF is removed peacefully from power through the ballot box.

However, the Tsvangirai-led MDC says Zanu PF is now panicking, having realised they will not win a free and fair election.

The coalition government running Zimbabwe, which is widely regarded as “dysfunctional” by governing partners, has initiated a modicum of electoral and human rights reforms which changes the electoral playing field.

This month alone, Mugabe signed two critical bills which have been the hallmark of the “unity” government.

The Electoral Amendment Bill and the Human Rights Bill are now operational after government gazetted them in sequence.

Human rights defenders have welcomed the two new laws saying they will put fetters on political parties that thrive on violence.

The signing into law of the Electoral Act signals the disbandment of machinery which political parties and civil society groups claim had formed the backbone of Mugabe and Zanu PF’s vote rigging machinery.

The Electoral Act brings a new complexion to the election playground, previously blighted by violence, late release of election results and electoral thuggery, analysts say.

Zimbabwe Election Commission’s (Zec) commissioner Geoff Feltoe said the new law is an attempt to allay fears of electoral fraud.

“We are trying to improve the electoral process and we have in the Act a law that will ensure that we have free and fair elections.

“This law will make sure the electoral process runs smooth,” said Feltoe.

Human rights defenders say the Human Rights Act, though not enough, could inject confidence in the electorate.

“At last Zimbabwe has a constitutional body that is mandated to promote fundamental rights and freedoms, and to protect the public against abuse of power and maladministration by the state,” said Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR).

The group of human rights lawyers said with a “constitutional referendum and elections on the horizon, the existence of a functional mechanism to investigate and deal with politically-motivated rights violations is extremely important, especially where such violations tend to worsen in the run-up to, and following, such national processes”.

Apart from electoral reforms, a Tsvangirai win would spell disaster for Zanu PF politicians and military chiefs who have “corruptly” acquired vast wealth.

Analysts say service chiefs and Zanu PF are scared Tsvangirai could proceed to expose their corruption.
For instance, Mugabe has always called “for one man one farm” but most of the military and Zanu PF are multiple farm owners.

Douglas Mwonzora, the MDC spokesperson, said Zanu PF is now uncomfortable with a level playing field.
“The recent wanton arrests, harassment and intimidation of MDC leadership and membership, point to a party in panic mode and which is certainly facing burial, come next election,” said Mwonzora.

“We know Zanu PF fears an MDC landslide and now they are threatening the people. However, we urge people to ignore their rantings and go and register as voters.

“We are in the process of engaging Sadc, and the African Union and even the United Nations over Zanu PF utterances,” said Mwonzora.

Industry and Commerce minister Welshman Ncube-led MDC says Zanu PF has always been panicking and uses violence to grandstand.

“Those statements are inflammatory. They should not be accepted at all — after all the efforts that parties made to promote peace and harmony,” Qhubani Moyo, Policy Director in the Ncube-led MDC said.

Mugabe has been at the forefront denouncing violence but his opponents say statements from people like Chinamasa point to the fact that he is not ready to rein them in.

“Mugabe should be held accountable for the utterances of Chinamasa and Gumbo. This shows that the two are speaking with his blessings. If they were not, he should have dealt with them.

“The statements fly in the face of Mugabe who at the burial of Stan Mudenge denounced violence,” said Moyo.

Gumbo said the party is not panicking, accusing the MDC formations of repeating an “old song” not worth following.

“We are always ready for elections and we are not panicking,” Gumbo said.

“The army will never be involved in the country’s politics. That is an old broken song from the MDC.”

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