Calls for transitional Zim govt escalates

HARARE - Civic society and opposition political parties yesterday added their voices to calls for a roadmap towards a transitional civilian government following the military’s take-over this week.

The army — led by Zimbabwe Defence Forces commander Constantino Chiwenga — took charge of the country on Wednesday.

Reacting to the take-over, Zimbabwe People First (ZimPF) president designate Agrippa Mutambara said the conflicts and purges in Zanu PF caused immense interest and agitation, especially considering that the country is heading towards elections next year.

“The situation that Zimbabwe now finds itself in is that of desirable outcomes through undesirable means. However, to move the country forward, we need to recognise the outcomes as being irreversible and then map a way forward.

“We in ZimPF, therefore now call for an immediate transitional civilian authority involving all major political parties and alliances, and ask that the military authorities immediately facilitate the consummation of such an authority,” Mutambara said.

The Election Resource Centre (ERC) — an independent election watchdog — said while Zimbabweans should remain calm, it strongly encourages the restoration of constitutional civilian order.

It said Sadc leaders should act in consent, and with the security and safety of Zimbabweans in mind.

“We implore those in authority to immediately avail a clear road map towards the restoration of a civilian constitutional order by ensuring they abide by the Constitution of Zimbabwe bearing in mind that the country is in the process of preparing for elections in 2018.”

“The ERC urges authorities to ensure the non-interruption of on-going electoral processes, especially voter registration ahead of the 2018 polls, guaranteeing that laws are fully aligned with the Constitution and the political environment remains conducive for free participation by all Zimbabweans,” ERC said.

In a joint statement yesterday, 117 civil society organisations said the political transition in Zimbabwe must be guided by the Constitution.

“We reiterate our position that events in Zimbabwe pose serious security challenges for ordinary citizens and the global democratic order and restate our commitment to defend the Constitution of Zimbabwe. Zimbabwe’s political transition must be guided by the Constitution and a firm commitment to uphold the rule of law,” they said.

Zimbabwe Election Support Network (Zesn), one of the 117 organisations, called for inclusive dialogue to resolve the political impasse.

“It is imperative that peaceful resolutions are agreed upon by all key stakeholders detailing key steps towards ensuring the preservation of constitutionalism with a clear election roadmap that guarantees the enjoyment of fundamental political rights and freedoms as well as the embracing of electoral reforms,” Zesn said.

Political analyst Blessing Vava put the blame of Zimbabwe’s current quandary squarely on Mugabe’s shoulders.

“He failed to deal with his succession and he had the time to do it. We have reached this level because Mugabe wanted to be life president of Zimbabwe. What is important is how we are going to move forward from this. What is needed in Zimbabwe right now is the restoration of the Constitution as there is a vacuum now in Zimbabwe,” he said.

Political analyst Alex Magaisa said “If he doesn’t want to resign, why not press the removal button? There seems to be cross-party consensus that it’s time up for Mugabe. Hard to see who in Zanu PF would resist and stand with a falling man. It will be clean and might even complete the facade that it’s not a coup!”

On Wednesday, British foreign secretary, Boris Johnson, told the House of Commons on Wednesday that all Britain has ever wanted was for Zimbabweans to be able to decide their own future in free and fair elections.

“Mugabe’s consuming ambition was always to deny them that choice. The House will remember the brutal litany of his 37 years in office: the elections he rigged and stole, the murder and torture of his opponents, the illegal seizure of land, leading to the worst hyperinflation in recorded history — measured in the billions of percentage points — and forcing the abolition of the Zimbabwean Dollar.”

“And all the while, his followers were looting and plundering a richly-endowed country, so that Zimbabweans today are, per capita, poorer than they were at independence in 1980, leaving many dependent on the health care, education and food aid provided by DFID,” Johnson said.

“There is only one rightful way for Zimbabwe to achieve a legitimate government and that is through free and fair elections, held in accordance with the country’s Constitution. And these elections are due to be held in the first half of next year, and we will do all we can, with our international partners, to ensure this provides a genuine opportunity for all Zimbabweans to decide their own future.”

War vets invigorated

Meanwhile, the army’s intervention seems to have given lost voice to the war veterans aligned to the Team Lacoste Zanu PF faction led by sacked Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa, as the ex-liberation fighters are now reaching out to the opposition political parties to map the way forward.

The ex-fighters — under the Zimbabwe National Liberation War Veterans’ Association (Znlwva) who were fired from Zanu PF — yesterday invited opposition parties to attend their Indaba, which had been long delayed due police bans, in Harare on Saturday.

Speaking to the to the Daily News, Znlwva spokesperson Douglas Mahiya said they wanted to join forces in order to solve the current crises.

“We are inviting everyone to come to our meeting, even the so called opposition parties, to us as war veterans they are not opposition, they only have different views and I think this is what we fought, they are part of us because we are all Zimbabweans. They must come to the meeting; we Zimbabweans must find a solution to this current crisis,” he said.

“We call all who participated in the liberation struggle, war collaborators, ex-detainees and everyone to come. Ever Zimbabwean participated in the liberation war as you know some cooked for us during the war.”

Mahiya said although the police had banned the meeting, they were going on hoping that they will win their case in the courts.

“We had filed our application; I think it will be heard later today or tomorrow. However, our preparations are going on well.”

The Morgan Tsvangirai-led opposition party spokesperson, Obert Gutu, said although they were yet to receive a formal invitation, they will attend the meeting.

“War veterans are a very important and strategic component of Zimbabwe’s body politic. They fought against the racist colonial settler regime of Ian Smith in order to grant us our independence in April, 1980. If they invite us to attend their indaba, we would gladly accept the invitation,” he said.

Following the army take over, the war vets demanded that Mugabe be recalled from Zanu PF and be tried for crimes he committed while in office.

Znlwva secretary-general, Victor Matemadanda, told reporters at a press conference in Harare this week that military intervention was necessary as the country was sliding into a “state of chaos”.

“The central committee should immediately establish a commission of inquiry into….Mugabe, especially during the time he was in leadership position of the party. We urge that…Mugabe should be recalled from his role as the President and First Secretary of Zanu PF,” he said to a thunderous applause from other veterans.

Matemadanda said it was also crucial for the former liberation war movement to return quickly to constitutionalism and sets aside all the dismissals that were instigated by national political commissar Saviour Kasukuwere.

Mugabe, 93, has been in power since 1980 when the country gained independence from Britain.

“Bloodless” intervention hailed

The Zipra Veterans Association (ZVA) has come out in full support of the “bloodless” military intervention in the country.

In a statement yesterday ZVA national coordinator Mark Mbayiwa, said: “We highly commend the national defence forces for a bloodless takeover. It shows they respect the sanctity of life of Zimbabweans. It also shows they prioritise peace and tranquillity in the country.”

“We pray the operation retains the peaceful nature it has taken since it started, so that no lives will be lost. We pray it remains peaceful and bloodless until the army achieves what they seek to, that is to see the back of dictatorship,” he said.

The Zipra veteran further noted that the current move by the army was going to usher in a new political dispensation that “will finally afford the nation the change we have long waited for.”

Mbayiwa added: “It’s high time this despotic rule that has held Zimbabwe hostage for over three decades comes to an end.”

“He said they were optimistic that after the operation there was to be an end to an improvement in both social and economic prospects of the country.

“This country has long suffered under mismanagement, corruption, lawlessness and sheer looting,” said Mbayiwa.

Just like fellow opposition parties who have unanimously spoken about the need for a transitional authority, Mbayiwa, who is also Zapu senior official, said his association now awaits the commencement of a process to democratise Zimbabwe and return to civilian rule.

“We now anticipate the start of a transitional process that will eventually lead to a democratic election process. We call upon the military to expeditiously hand over power back to civilians as soon as their operation folds.”

Ray of hope

Religious leaders have expressed hope that the takeover of government operations by the army will open “a new chapter in the history of Zimbabwe”.

In a statement, Zimbabwe Heads of Christian Denominations — a grouping of church denominations — chairperson Ishmael Mukuwanda said: “We see the current situation not just as a crisis in which we are helpless; we see the current arrangement as an opportunity for the birth of a new nation.”

“Our God created everything out of chaos and we believe something new could emerge out of our situation,” he said.

Mukuwanda, who is also the president of the Zimbabwe Council of Churches, said while as an organisation they accepted that this was the beginning of a new era, there was need to firstly define the problem bedevilling the country.

According to the statement, signed by seven executive members of the organisation from different churches, the current developments are going to lay a foundation for the future.

Some of the signatories to the statement are businessman and clergyman Shingi Munyeza, Kenneth Mtata and pastor Blessing Makwara.

“There is a general feeling that the wheels of democracy have become stuck in the mud of personalised politics where the generality of the citizenry plays an insignificant role. It is this lack of democratic renewal and the resulting stagnation, sterility and fatigue that has culminated in the current situation,” Mukuwanda said.

However, the church made a number of calls which they said were the way to go in resolving the current impasse.

“We call the nation to a moment of prayer for repentance, deep reflection and discernment. We all need to go before God and ask God to forgive us for ways in which we contributed to the situation through neglect or wrong action,” he said.

“We need individual and collective deep reflection on what this means for all of us as individuals, families, churches and the nation. We need to find meaning in this situation which may appear meaningless. We need collective and individual discernment on what should be the next direction for us as a nation.”

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