MDC takes war to Zanu PF

HARARE - Fireworks are expected at tomorrow’s Cabinet meeting as the Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai-led MDC takes the electoral war to President Robert Mugabe’s Zanu PF over a voter registration programme mired in controversy and renewed crackdown on pro-democracy groups.

Matters have come to a head in the “unity” government after the police, accused by critics of being pro-Zanu PF, continued arresting members of civil society undertaking voter registration campaigns on charges of breaking the country’s electoral laws.

Although Cabinet has ordered a fresh mobile voter registration blitz, problems continue to dog the whole electoral process.

The Daily News was swamped with reports of irregularities, registration officers closing out the public and aliens being turned away at voter registration centres countrywide.

On Saturday, police arrested three members of the Election Resource Centre (ERC), while on the same day, five members of the MDC were arrested in Harare East Constituency.

In both cases, the arrested activists were charged with impersonating public officials.

Tendai Biti, secretary-general of Tsvangirai’s MDC, said the arrest of scores of MDC supporters on “trumped-up” charges signals a “desperate action by a desperate regime”.

“The arrest of our supporters and civic rights members is absolute rubbish. This is a desperate action by a desperate regime devoid of any ideas.

“This is an issue that will spill into Cabinet and we will also take it to the (power-sharing talks) facilitator and the (Sadc) region. We would like them to know that Zanu PF does not own Zimbabwe. We are all stakeholders,” an angry Biti said.

With Sadc brokering a unity government in 2008 and at the behest of the African Union, Zimbabwe is being ruled by a coalition formed after 2008’s inconclusive poll and which was characterised by violence.
However, both Mugabe and Tsvangirai want out of the coalition, as they hope that an upcoming election will secure them an outright win.

In the process, Zanu PF and its MDC partners are tussling over key issues such as the voter registration exercise — a vital process in fulfilling the electoral roadmap and as the parties seek to get their supporters out in numbers to register as voters.

They are also haggling over the implementation of the power-sharing Global Political Agreement (GPA).

With elections likely to be held in the next few months, time is running out for the full implementation of the GPA and Zanu PF is adamant that envisaged security sector reforms demanded by the MDC will not be implemented.

A stalemate over the election roadmap which includes security sector and media reforms has caused consternation within the MDC, which is especially riled by latest statements from army generals that they will not accept Tsvangirai’s rule.

Recently, army commander general Constantine Chiwenga described Tsvangirai as a “psychiatric patient” and this issue is also likely to take centre stage at a closed door Cabinet meeting tomorrow.

In addition, Information minister Webster Shamu’s statement that the country cannot be “sold” through the ballot since it was won by the gun are also likely to provide sparks that will touch a storm in tomorrow’s Cabinet meeting, according to Biti.

On Tuesday, Tsvangirai is also expected to take the fight to the octogenarian leader over his unilateral declaration that Justice minister Patrick Chinamasa was now solely in charge of determining the framework for forthcoming elections — billed as one of the most important since independence from Britain in 1980.
 
Under an election roadmap agreed to by both parties, Chinamasa is supposed to work with Eric Matinenga, the country’s Constitutional Affairs minister, in preparing for the general election.

Recently, Tsvangirai went on a whirlwind tour of the continent drumming up support to force Mugabe into fully implementing the GPA.

Setting the stage for a potentially explosive Cabinet meeting, Biti said we will do “everything in our power” to ensure that a new voter registration exercise is rolled out even if Zanu PF does not want to reform.

“This is a calculated crackdown. The election hasn’t even started but the merchants of violence are bent on having an unsustainable election period,” Biti told the Daily News.

The eight people who were arrested at the weekend join a growing list of individuals who have been arrested for breaching the country’s laws pertaining to voter education.

In Hatcliffe, 19 MDC officials were arrested recently and are being charged for breaching section 179 of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act.


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