Zanu PF, MDC grandstanding on electoral reforms

HARARE - Zanu PF national political commissar Saviour Kasukuwere and VP Emmerson Mnangagwa have sparked a storm over their recent comments at Zanu PF rallies to drum up support for the June 10 by-elections in Harare and Mutare respectively that there won’t be any electoral reforms as demanded by opposition political parties.

First it was Kasukuwere who last week told Zanu PF supporters that MDC president Morgan Tsvangirai “will never see the (electoral) reforms that he is dreaming about. He can go and hang….We want to improve the standards of living and not this Tsvangirai nonsense.”

On Tuesday Mnangagwa added his voice saying his party is unfazed by Tsvangirai’s call for electoral reforms.

Analysts have, however dismissed Kasukuwere and Mnangagwa’s non-compliancy threats, pointing to the fact that electoral reforms are a constitutional requirement with some pointing to the fact that the United Nations has already released funds to assist in the aligning of the constitution to existing laws which include electoral laws.

Political analyst Ibbo Mandaza has dismissed the statements as political grandstanding saying while Zanu PF may not be comfortable with reforms; President Robert Mugabe’s government was under international pressure to implement the new Constitution and electoral reforms.

“Electoral reforms may not be desirable for Zanu PF but they are inevitable and it will be very difficult for the ruling party to resist because already there is a United Nations mission in the country with the task to assist government in implementing electoral reforms,” Mandaza said.

He says government had since received money to fund the realigning of laws, a bid by the international community to ensure that the 2018 elections would be held in a democratic environment.

“I know that European Union has given $1, 2 million to government to assist in the aligning of the Constitution to existing laws and that includes electoral laws and that is why I say what Zanu PF is saying is mere political posturing.”

Chris Mhike, a lawyer, says Kasukuwere’s claims that there won’t be any reforms as demanded by Tsvangirai “are lamentable and extremely outrageous in their defiance of constitutionalism, and in their disregard for the rule of law principle.

“Section 157 of the Constitution clearly dictates that ‘an Act of Parliament must provide for the conduct of elections and referendums.

“Even the Zec Chairperson — the honourable Justice Rita Makarau is on record stating that the current Electoral Act in its present form is not the statute that is envisaged by the Constitution.”

He says it is the duty of the executive and of the legislature — not of Zec or Courts of law; to ensure that the said Act of Parliament is in place, as soon as possible.

“Minister Kasukuwere is a member of both the executive and the legislature.  He should be in the forefront in ensuring legislative reform on electoral issues at Cabinet and at Parliament.  In that context then, his latest statements on the matter are most appalling.”

Human rights activist Dewa Mavhinga believes it is typical of Zanu PF to resist electoral reforms. “It is a challenge that the MDC must rise to well ahead of 2018 elections to ensure that they apply sufficient pressure for Zanu PF to be forced to reform.

“It means the boycott option alone has not created that kind of pressure, there is need to urgently deploy more and escalated strategies to avoid a repeat of past election shams through levelling the electoral field to give fair and equal opportunities to all political parties.

He added that the MDC’s demands for electoral reforms are correct, “but the trick is to make it impossible or very costly for Zanu PF to ignore such demands with arrogance and contempt.”

Political commentator Blessing Ivan Vava says the MDC failed to push for the so-called reforms during their stay in government and he thinks this narrative of boycotting will not work either.

“If they do boycott the 2018 elections that will mark their political demise. Zanu PF is a dictatorship and they will continue ruling, and mind you other parties are contesting these elections and legitimising them so a boycott will not yield anything for the MDC.”

Vava says with the way things are going “it seems the opposition is disoriented, disorganised and this will only give Zanu PF an upper hand. I foresee another Zanu PF victory.”

Political analyst Eldred Masunungure says it was the MDC that was grandstanding. “I don’t think this a matter of mere rhetoric. Zanu PF will do exactly what they have declared they will do because they seldom want to be seen to be yielding to pressure from the MDC. They will not reform the electoral infrastructure.”

Masunungure says Zanu PF knows that there will be a multiplicity of parties, “some existing and others that will sprout, stampeding to register their participation.”

He believes the MDC was going to boycott the 2018 election notwithstanding all they are saying and doing now.

“It’s only a strategy to put domestic pressure on government but come 2018 for the major contest they will enthusiastically participate although they will say they are participating under protest but its participation nonetheless.”

Journalist Njabulo Ncube agrees Tsvangirai and his party is grandstanding at the moment as they prepare and strategise for the big one. “The demands are a strategy to try and force Zanu PF to open up bit by bit as we get closer to 2018.

“And this is happening; Zec has for instance given candidates contesting the June 10 by-electuions electoral copies of the voters’ roll.” Ncube says boycotting the 2018 polls is out of the way for the MDC and he believes the opposition party will contest the elections under protest as has happened before.

“They have their eyes on the 2018 polls as a lot has happened between now and the last harmonised polls. Today’s Zanu PF is no-longer the Zanu PF of July 2013.”

MDC, Zapu dismiss Kasukuwere

MDC spokesperson Obert Gutu says they are not at all surprised by these outrageous and rabid utterances by Kasukuwere.

“Political thugs can never be associated with democracy, tolerance and accountability. Kasukuwere is a man deeply entrenched in political thuggery, hence naturally not amenable to the holding of free and fair elections even in his own faction ridden, grumbling Zanu PF.”

Gutu says whatever nonsense that Kasukuwere uttered should be dismissed with the contempt it deserves as MDC’s position remains that it would not participate in any election without the necessary reforms having been made.

“Our position as MDC is very clear and unambiguous; we are saying without reforms, we are not going to participate in any elections in Zimbabwe.”

Asked whether this was not going to legitimise Zanu PF’s actions, Gutu said: “Not at all. Zanu PF is yesterday’s party. It is crumbling and by the time we get to 2018, there will be no Zanu PF to talk about.

When we talk about political legitimacy, that can only be achieved when the political playing field in Zimbabwe is evened up.

on electoral reforms“What Zanu PF is winning now is just pyrrhic victory. It is a hollow, empty and meaningless victory. It does not bring sustainable and democratic sense to the people of Zimbabwe.”

Zapu Spokesperson Mnjobisa Noko says Kasukuwere’s statement is sheer madness and ignorance on his part because the Constitution is very clear that there should be reforms.

“There have been a lot of discussions and workshops that have been held across the country in regard to electoral reforms and henceforth this will not stop Zimbabweans from demanding these electoral reforms,” says Noko.

“Zapu has since gone to court challenging some of the provisions of the old Electoral Act. For a democratic process to take place the Zanu PF government must take responsibility for making sure that those electoral reforms are put in place.”

Noko says it is not the monopoly of Zanu PF to decide on what Zimbabweans want regarding democratic right to vote.

“We always believe that for a democratic process to be successful it has to go through electoral reforms and that does not exempt Zimbabwe from doing the same.”

Unlike the MDC, Noko says Zapu will participate in every election, even in the absence of the electoral reforms. “We are going to be participating in all the elections that are taking place in Zimbabwe, the simple reason being that we need to fight for a democratic process within the system.

“By boycotting the elections we deprive the ordinary Zimbabwean his right to vote a leadership of his choice.”

Noko believes the MDC failed to push for the necessary reforms during the time of the Government of National Unity.

MDC adopted a number of resolutions

At its 4th national congress that was held at the City Sports Centre in Harare from October 31, 2014 to November 2, 2014; the MDC adopted a number of resolutions.

One of these resolutions was that the party shall not participate in any elections until electoral and political reforms have been undertaken to ensure that all elections will produce a legitimate result that is beyond contestation.

The MDC position was largely influenced by allegations of rigging and manipulation of the July 31, 2013 harmonised elections.

- The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec), should undertake a biometric national voter registration exercise that will give rise to the creation of a clean and accurate voters’ roll.

The voters’ roll that was inherited from the Registrar General’s office by Zec is littered with gross irregularities that include, but are not limited to, the inclusion of thousands of names of deceased people;

- The secretariat of Zec is largely composed of military and State security agents.

This secretariat has to be completely dismantled in order to come up with a professional and unbiased secretariat that is capable of conducting a free and fair election at any given moment in time;

- All political parties and players should be accorded equal and unfettered access to the State- controlled print and electronic media in accordance with the provisions of the new Constitution of Zimbabwe that was adopted in May,2013;

- All the provisions of the new Constitution of Zimbabwe should be implemented to enable Zimbabweans to enjoy their rights as clearly espoused in the Bill of Rights e.g. there should be genuine opening up of the airwaves instead of giving radio and television licences only to Zanu PF — affiliated companies and individuals;

- Traditional leaders should be completely apolitical in accordance with the dictates of the new Constitution of Zimbabwe.

The Zanu PF regime should not commandeer and intimidate traditional leaders to partake in partisan political activities. Put alternatively, all traditional leaders should not engage, directly or indirectly, in any political activities;

- All political parties and players should have free and unrestricted access to all corners of the country.

No political party should be prevented from holding meetings, rallies etc in any part of Zimbabwe. In other words, the Zanu PF regime shouldn’t create virtual no go areas for other competing political players

- All elections to be held in Zimbabwe should be in strict accordance with the Sadc norms and conditions for the holding of free and fair elections;

- Election observers from Sadc, the AU, the EU, the UN etc should be free to come and observe any elections that are held in Zimbabwe.

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