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Mugabe Allies Against Run-off

PRESIDENT Robert Mugabe’s close allies are opposed to the looming presidential run-off which they fear will fuel political violence and economic disintegration.

Information to hand shows Mugabe’s associates have advised that the potentially explosive run-off should be avoided to pave way for a negotiated political settlement.

The run-off date is due to be announced today. Sources said it could be in June, although electoral authorities have indicated it should be held within 90 days from May 2. The MDC said yesterday it would not accept the run-off delay.

Independent MP Jonathan Moyo is challenging the run-off delay in court today.

The sources said Reserve Bank governor Gideon Gono has advised Mugabe that it would be better to avoid the run-off and settle for talks.

They said Gono made a case to Mugabe last month that this would prevent a further assault on the economy and limit the meltdown.

Gono’s position was at variance with that of the Joint Operations Command (JOC) who want Mugabe to fight on.

Zimbabwe Defence Forces chief General Constantine Chiwenga, Police Commissioner-General Augustine Chihuri, Prisons Commissioner retired Major-General Paradzayi Zimondi, Army Chief of Staff Major-General Martin Chedondo and Brigadier-General David Sigauke have said they would not accept opposition MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai if he wins.

The generals’ position is shared by Zanu PF senior politburo member Emmerson Mnangagwa who is Mugabe’s chief strategist for the run-off.

Mnangagwa’s rivals in the camp led by retired army commander General Solomon Mujuru want Mugabe to quit, not enter the run-off. They started their campaign well before the elections.

Regional leaders, led by South African President Thabo Mbeki, are said to be pushing for a negotiated solution or government of national unity, but Mugabe and his clique of hardliners are resisting this.

Mbeki is said to be of the view that a run-off would not resolve the country’s deepening problems but worsen them.

The sources said after the March 29 elections, the service chiefs told Mugabe to dig in but close advisors like Gono suggested a negotiated settlement.

Zanu PF sent out feelers to the MDC through Nicholas Goche, but talks quickly collapsed as the two parties were poles apart.

Tsvangirai has confirmed this, although Zanu PF claims the MDC approached it first.

It is understood Gono wrote for Mugabe a detailed document arguing his case. He is said to have also argued that the run-off would drain whatever resources government has left.

Sources said government – which has no usable foreign currency – needs about US$60 million to fund the run-off.

Government is currently unable to import essentials due to chronic forex shortages. 

The campaign matter was discussed at his party’s politburo meeting on Wednesday and will be raised at today’s key central committee meeting. Zanu PF is likely to use the central committee to launch Mugabe’s campaign.

Tsvangirai is expected to return home today after more than a month in self-imposed exile in Botswana and South Africa from where he visited a number of leaders in the region and across the continent in search of a breakthrough to current problems.

He is expected to address his party caucus of MPs and senators in Harare which started meeting yesterday.

Gono said in a local weekly last week he was convinced “scorched earth policies” during the run-off would not achieve anything, except further damage the economy and social fabric. He said unless parties exercised restraint during the run-off, “there may be no Zimbabwean economy to talk about”. He said political violence would only fuel divisions.

Gono, believed to be considering resigning due to political interference in his job, said if not carefully managed the run-off would “spell disaster for the economy”.

His view is said to be shared by a number of senior Zanu PF officials,   except those in the Mnangagwa faction, who think the run-off would leave the country in political and economic ruin.

Asked about his advice to Mugabe, Gono said: I’m not a superintendent or advisor in politics, but in the financial sector”. He said in any case he does not discuss his briefings with Mugabe in the media.

He denied he was considering resigning. “That’s just a perception, I have heard that story a hundred times before,” he said. “I will do my job given to me by my principals at any given time. Right now I’m still there, but I won’t last a day longer than my principals want me to.”

It is said Gono still has political ambitions which he wants to pursue after his term has expired in December. “Don’t compartmentalise or regiment me into politics. After this I can be a farmer, businessman, banker, lecturer or even a tea boy,” he said. 

Some in the security establishment believe Mugabe should not contest the run-off because he is likely to lose and exit in a humiliating fashion.

They think alarms bells were loud enough in the first round and he should quit to avoid an embarrassing crushing.

By Dumisani Muleya

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