Tsvangirai gears for elections

HARARE - Unlike President Robert Mugabe who has taken his traditional annual leave in the face of pressing government and party programmes, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai says he is not holidaying as he gears for a decisive election in the year ahead.

His top aide, Alex Magaisa yesterday said the MDC leader is cutting short his holiday to prepare for a watershed election likely to be held mid next year, adding that the premier also wants to use January to push for progress in the stalled constitution-making process.

The completion of a draft constitution is one of the key reforms which are part of conditions for a credible fresh poll.

Tsvangirai lost to Mugabe in 2002 before the 2008 disputed presidential election in which he won the first round and boycotted a subsequent violent run-off thereby forcing the formation of a coalition.

Next year’s poll could be Tsvangirai’s last bite as his MDC party could be forced to look for a fresh candidate in subsequent polls.

“The Prime Minister is going to cut short his holiday and immediately start working on outstanding issues.

We do not have time to waste going on long holidays. The PM is going to have a short holiday just like everyone else and return to work on 7 January,” said Tsvangirai’s political secretary Alex Magaisa.

After a gruelling year marked by a constitution-making stalemate and several deadlocks on several issues among the three coalition partners, Mugabe left the country on Wednesday for the Far East, his traditional annual hideout.

Cabinet usually does not sit in Mugabe’s absence and the 88-year-old strongman has in the past overturned key decisions made by his lieutenants while he was away.

George Charamba, Mugabe’s spokesperson, said his boss’ absence will not affect the government work programme, but Mugabe’s annual sabbaticals have in the past grounded major government business meaning Tsvangirai could be forced to concentrate more on MDC business.

Magaisa said a prolonged holiday for Tsvangirai was out of the question because the MDC had intensified election strategies to complete its struggle to completely remove Mugabe and Zanu PF from power.

“There is a policy conference that will start in mid-January where we are going to launch all our policies as we go towards elections. The PM chairs all those meetings and he is supposed to be around as we are getting ready for a crucial election,” said Magaisa.

Already, the MDC has launched its economic blueprint code-named Juice (Jobs, Upliftment, Investment, Capital and the Environment) which it says is designed to correct Zimbabwe’s weak economic structure characterised by high levels of poverty, social underdevelopment, decayed infrastructure and a crippling debt overhang.

Apart from campaign policy strategies, Tsvangirai has been on a whirlwind tour of the country meeting grassroots MDC structures affected by factionalism as well as reading the riot act on officials suspected of masterminding a plot that would see the former trade unionist ousted at the party’s 2016 elective congress if he fails to beat Mugabe next year. He is likely to continue on this crusade in January.

In government, progress is likely to be grounded, particularly the constitution-making process which is now being negotiated by teams reporting directly to Mugabe and Tsvangirai.

A draft constitution completed in June is hanging in the air after Zanu PF suggested further amendments which are being rejected by the MDC.

In the wake of the stalemate, Mugabe and Tsvangirai set up a special ministerial committee headed by Constitutional Affairs minister Eric Matinenga seeking to break the deadlock.

But this week, the committee failed to make progress and referred 28 of the 30 sticking points to Mugabe and Tsvangirai as the coalition government Principals.

Yet, with Mugabe vacationing in the Far East, progress is likely to start only when he returns.

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