Don't legitimise flawed poll

HARARE - Political leadership requires certain qualities. Among the attributes of good political leaders are consistency and firmness.

Consistency shows unwavering conviction to principles. Firm leaders withstand challenge of adversaries without wilting.

Leaders do, occasionally, fall short on these or for very good reasons, change course. But frequent deviations can be politically deleterious.

MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai has earned a reputation for inconsistency and lack of muscle.

Critics cite, and justifiably so, among other issues, his rather generous political concessions to Mugabe after beating him in the last election.

Tsvangirai accepted the junior post of prime minister while Mugabe retained the top executive seat after the biased mediation of Thabo Mbeki.

Further, the MDC failed to secure control of some of the key security ministries, a factor contributing to current outcry over unfulfilled reforms.

Tsvangirai’s inconsistencies have been reflected in responses, for example, to the gays and indigenisation issues and most recently, constitution-making when he first stated coalition principals would not interfere with people’s views.

Mugabe was demanding the elite take-over the process, and at the time, I asked if  Tsvangirai would capitulate.

He did. Fallibilities that come with such frequency do not engender public confidence in a potential national leader.   

Now, Tsvangirai has once again laid out preconditions to be met before the elections — media, electoral and security sector reforms, among others.

By setting these prerequisites, Tsvangirai has provided sceptics with yet another opportunity, perhaps the last, to judge him before a crucial election.

The demands he sets are quite onerous it is difficult to see how an election can be held any time soon if they were to be implemented.

Registration of truly independent radio stations; removing partisan elements from Zec, defining role of security sector in line with international best practice and so on.

These are time-consuming, let alone contested processes.

Through these demands, Tsvangirai has put his political reputation at stake, again. The question is whether he will, at last, stand his ground this time.

If he participates in the election without the changes he demands, the lack of reforms may be inconsequential; voters would have already and finally confirmed Tsvangirai does not deserve their vote for his lack of political mettle.

In his latest piece, Jonathan Moyo has indicated that Tsvangirai is simply panicking at the prospect of electoral defeat.

But cut out the usual invective, his piece shows it may, in fact, be Zanu PF that is now panicking at the prospect of Tsvangirai boycotting of the election.

Moyo chides Tsvangirai for wanting to create another “conflict” situation. If Moyo speaks for the party, Zanu PF is indeed concerned about the implications of Tsvangirai’s non-participation.

Zanu PF simply cannot afford to invite another crisis on Zimbabwe.

Moyo seeks to appease Tsvangirai by suggesting that the MDC leader’s concerns have been addressed in the constitution.

But demands Tsvangirai seems to be making, for instance, registering independent radio stations and removing biased personnel from Zec, are meant to have immediate impact on the forthcoming elections, things a constitution will not provide soon enough.

Tsvangirai seems to be holding the aces, only if Sadc agrees with him on the outstanding reforms.

Lindiwe Zulu, spokesperson for South African president Jacob Zuma’s facilitation team, indicated that reforms had to be completed before the election.

It remains to be seen if Sadc will back the specific reforms Tsvangirai insists on.

Given that the African Union and Western nations have reposed faith in Sadc, an election that proceeds without the endorsement of the regional body will be delegitimised, once again.

Zimbabwe will remain the pariah it has been for some years.

If Sadc dismisses Tsvangirai’s demands, the elections will proceed, and his protestations will not matter.

But it is clear Zanu PF desperately wants to nudge Tsvangirai into participating in the election without further changes that might compromise its victory.

Tsvangirai’s participation alone will legitimise the election.

According to Moyo,  Tsvangirai is “making a fool of himself” by insisting on further reforms.

But Tsvangirai should not be used to legitimise a flawed election; there is nothing foolish about ensuring conditions for free, fair and credible elections are in place.  Only fools rush in. - Conrad Nyamutata

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