No need to keep everyone guessing

HARARE - Free and fair elections in Zimbabwe can only start with the early announcement of poll dates as this can give participating candidates enough time to prepare.

As it stands, free and fair elections in Zimbabwe will not be possible as President Robert Mugabe continues to play hide and seek with election dates.

Mugabe should by now, especially after Zimbabweans gave a “Yes” nod to the constitution, have announced poll dates.

Apart from politicians who would want to plan their campaigns, there are several others affected with Mugabe’s silence on the dates. We have institutions that will have to work on the voters’ roll, print the ballots, NGOs who want to embark on voter education and even those overseas who might want to come back home to cast their vote.

We see no reason why Mugabe cannot announce the polling dates and keep everyone guessing, while politicians from across the divide continue to send distorted information on the time framework for elections.

In other countries, the poll dates are never a secret and are announced well before the actual polling to give all those involved ample time to tie loose strings.

There are logistics that go with the holding of elections, from vehicles transporting ballot boxes to the recruitment and training of polling officers.

The announcement of the poll dates will also give Finance minister, Tendai Biti time to pull together resources for the exercise.

As it is now, no donor will be willing to fully commit on funding a poll whose dates remain unknown. There are channels in which donor funds are released and these need time so that processes are met.

Mugabe should be sincere with himself because he alone, and possibly advisers in Zanu PF have already coined a date for the poll which they have kept to their chest.

With the possible dates only known to Mugabe and his inner circle, rival political parties like the MDC remain in the dark, hence working blindly.

The pace at which Zanu PF is already campaigning is one pointer that Mugabe has silently coined a date for the polls and would like to ambush opponents to partake in the election.

Mugabe may sidestep Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and announce dates which may not be enough for full preparations of a free and fair election. This will definitely backfire.

We also have election observers coming to witness our polls — from the campaigns, voting to when results are announced and these also desperately need to know when we are going to hold our polls.

While observers and monitors need time to prepare for the Zimbabwean trip, Mugabe has kept their plans at bay.

But such is Mugabe -— he is showing off his muscles as always.

He knows fully well that in announcing dates, there would be pressure on him and his party to adhere to the fulfilment of the GPA which becomes impossible if he announces dates with only a few days to go before polls. - Staff Writer

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