THE ruling Zanu PF and the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) are on a collision course over the proposed electoral reforms which the ruling party is touting as key to Zimbabwe’s i
nternational rehabilitation. The two parties clashed this week on how to proceed on the issue. While Zanu PF spokesman Nathan Shamuyarira sounded conciliatory, saying there was need for dialogue with the MDC, the opposition hardened its position, complaining the reforms were a smokescreen behind which rigging and violence would persist.
Shamuyarira said at a two-day conference in Victoria Falls on electoral reforms that there was need to engage the MDC on the issue.
“We only need four votes from the opposition to form a (two-thirds) majority and then make constitutional amendments to enable us to implement the electoral reforms, and we hope the MDC will join us in effecting the reforms,” he said.
For Zanu PF to amend the constitution to accommodate the setting up of the proposed Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC), a purportedly independent body, it needs MDC support. Zanu PF has 87 MPs, including 12 non-constituency ones, but it is almost assured of the support of the 10 chiefs who are MPs. The MDC has 51 MPs, while Zanu (Ndonga) has one.
Shamuyarira’s statement on the need to engage the MDC was in direct conflict with remarks by Information minister Jonathan Moyo’s department last week which claimed there were no talks with the MDC on electoral reforms.
The statement pointed to fissures within the ruling party over the issue.
Zanu PF and the MDC have in the past few weeks been trying to engage each other to agree on a draft Bill to usher in the changes. The first encounter between Zanu PF’s secretary for legal affairs Patrick Chinamasa and MDC secretary-general Welshman Ncube at Parliament Building on July 14 ended in deadlock.
Chinamasa wanted the MDC to rubber-stamp Zanu PF’s proposals when the Bill comes before parliament next month but Ncube refused.
Although Chinamasa told a recent politburo meeting that President Robert Mugabe would appoint five electoral officers, including the ZEC chairman, to the new agencies from a list of nine proposed by parliament, sources say the proposed Bill wants the widely criticised Judicial Services Commission involved in the appointment process.
MDC secretary for legal affairs David Coltart said the MDC would not support the reforms if they were a sham.
“If Zanu PF chooses to pick and choose certain electoral reforms, we cannot play that game with them,” Coltart said. “If they present constitutional reforms that do not result in a genuinely independent and powerful electoral commission, we will not lend our support to such a proposal.”
The Victoria Falls meeting resolved that Zimbabwe’s proposed reforms need to comply with regional standards. It also said they should be agreed by consensus.
Mozambique has adopted this approach insisting that the opposition Renamo must be involved in electoral law making.
Zimbabwe will be in the spotlight at the Sadc meeting in Mauritius from August 15-17 where regional leaders are due to adopt a draft on principles and guidelines governing democratic elections.
Ncube said the MDC would not support fake reforms.
“You need to build national consensus on these reforms. Reforms that are suitable to Zanu PF are not acceptable. If they don’t address all the pertinent issues, there is a high probability that the MDC national executive will resolve not to participate in the elections,” he said. “We have already told them that we will not participate in yet another fraudulent election and if they want, they can declare a one-party election.”