THE ruling Zanu PF and opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) have agreed to postpone next year’s crucial elections from March to June during ongoing talks in South Africa.
This comes after Pre
sident Robert Mugabe has signed into law the recent amendment to the constitution to introduce limited political and electoral reforms supported by both parties in parliament.
Well-informed sources close to the negotiations, which resumed in Pretoria on Tuesday, said yesterday the two parties agreed that the joint polls — presidential, parliamentary, senate and municipal — will now have to be moved to June to allow more time for preparations, subject to approval by their leaders.
The sources said Zanu PF and the MDC — which on September 30 agreed on a new draft constitution as part of the talks — have also agreed to amend provisions of the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act to relax the media operational environment and to facilitate a better implementation of the law under which four private newspapers were closed. This week Information minister Sikhanyiso Ndlovu re-organised the state-controlled Media and Information Commission to reconsider the case of the closed Daily News.
The sources said the two parties yesterday debated amendments to the Public Order and Security Act. While the parties agreed that every country needs security laws, especially after the terrorist bombings in the United States, they differed on the type of legislation needed in Zimbabwe. The MDC wants sections of Posa which have been used to ban its rallies removed. Piecemeal changes to this law are expected soon.
Zanu PF, represented by Patrick Chinamasa and Nicholas Goche, and the MDC whose delegates are Welshman Ncube and Tendai Biti are now also discussing the last item on the agenda — the political climate.
This week they were focusing on targeted sanctions imposed on Mugabe and his cronies as part of the negotiations. Under the item, they are also expected to discuss issues such as the de-militarisation of state institutions, the role of traditional chiefs in politics, use of state and donor food relief for political gain and foreign broadcasts to Zimbabwe.
When the parties resumed talks on Tuesday on the day of the deadline for the conclusion of talks they had only agreed on the draft constitution but had not reached an agreement on electoral laws, security legislation, and media laws because of disagreements. They had also not even started to discuss the political climate, the last item on the agenda.
After missing the October 30 deadline, the parties now expect to finish the talks on November 7 and sign the main agreement by November 15.
Although the polls are supposed to be held in March, delimitation of constituencies now done by the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission instead of the ad hoc Delimitation Commission has not yet started. Registration of voters is also still continuing.
Government is also struggling to mobilise enough money to finance the elections, which will almost certainly leave the fiscus virtually empty and fuel the worsening economic meltdown.
About $3,5 trillion is needed before the end of the year to print the voters’ roll. The Registrar General’s office has only received $110 billion so far. The department which has to print the voters’ roll is also unable to pay its bills due to a financial crisis.
Police — who are expected to undertake massive recruitment for the elections — are also facing serious financial problems. Deputy police commissioner Levy Sibanda said this week their $1,5 trillion budget was now almost exhausted, with only $85 billion remaining.
The amount is only enough to cover the police’s expenses for a month. Sibanda said police are now unable to pay their bills as well. This all indicates a lack of preparedness for the elections. — Staff Writer.