In a telephone interview with the Zimbabwe Independent on Wednesday, international affairs advisor to Zuma who is the Sadc-appointed mediator, Lindiwe Zulu, said her boss wanted to see a conducive environment for free and fair elections before the polls are held.
President Robert Mugabe recently said the constitution-making process should be fast-tracked to pave way for elections mid-next year as he could not stomach a prolonged extension of the Global Political Agreement (GPA). He has, however, been mum on media, security and electoral reforms.
Zuma’s call for mechanisms to be put in place that guarantee violence-free and credible elections is what Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai has been calling for.
Tsvangirai said a roadmap to ensure credible elections should be implemented and Sadc should assist in drawing up guidelines for the polls where intimidation and violence would not play any part and where the result of such elections would not be disputed.
Zulu said though there had not been any major discussions on elections next year, Zuma strongly supported the decision taken by Sadc at the Windhoek Summit in August.
Zulu said: “First and foremost there hasn’t been any position by our principal, President Zuma on elections. He has not had a discussion and a date of elections for Zimbabwe. What he has is a decision that was taken by Sadc of starting to look at a roadmap for free and fair elections.
“A roadmap has to be established first, that will involve GPA principals, Sadc and relevant people to ensure that any elections that will be held will be free and fair. President Zuma is of the view that if elections should be done there should be no violence, no intimidation and there should be a free media environment.”
According to Zuma’s Sadc report, which was adopted at the August summit, the 24 agreed items of the GPA should be implemented on schedule as this would lay the basis for free and fair elections.
The report said “the inclusive government should be united in its effort to ensure everything is in place for the elections” and that “the constitution-making exercise, as well as the referendum on that constitution, should be a joint task of all the parties in the inclusive government”.
Zulu said: “To him (Zuma) the most important thing is the creation of a free environment conducive for free and fair elections.”
She said she had no idea when the roadmap would be drafted as focus was more on the implementation of outstanding issues which were moving “back and forth”.
Zulu said the mediators were not “dealing with the negotiators right now” but meeting with the principals directly.
On the political crisis triggered by Mugabe’s unilateral appointments of governors, judges and ambassadors, Zulu said they briefed Zuma on the meetings they had with the MDC-T after it wrote letters complaining about Mugabe not consulting Tsvangirai and other outstanding issues in the GPA.
“The issue of a crisis was raised by one partner (Tsvangirai). We came to Zimbabwe as you might recall as soon as the president received the letter and met him,” Zulu said. “When we got back to South Africa we briefed the president of the meeting we had with Prime Minister Tsvangirai and it is now up to him to take action. He has not yet responded, but will definitely do so. This is an ongoing process where you will be dealing with a bigger picture and dealing with things that come in between.”
While Zuma is calling for an environment that is violence-free, there is intimidation and reports of violence in Manicaland, some parts in Masvingo and Muzarabani by Zanu PF members.
Military chiefs and a group of soldiers codenamed “Boys on Leave” have reportedly been deployed to work with Zanu PF ahead of the anticipated elections next year.
Soldiers, according to the reports, have already been deployed nationwide. An army officer Douglas Nyikayaramba openly declared that he was a Zanu PF supporter at a meeting with chiefs on October 23 at 3-3 infantry battalion, saying he would not support a leader who did not have war credentials.
According to the Zimbabwe Peace Project (ZPP) information alert released this week, two traditional leaders from Masvingo North were reportedly forcing villagers to pay two goats or a US$70 fine for refusing to be under Zanu PF-imposed village heads. More than 60 families under chiefs Gurajena and Zimuto have also been forced to buy Zanu PF party cards or face eviction.
“It is reported that the traditional leaders, Chief Gurajena and Chief Zimuto from Masvingo were impelled to demand the fines after the villagers from ward 1 in the same constituency were vehemently opposed to the imposition of village heads by Zanu PF officials from the province,” said ZPP.
In Bikita West constituency, war veterans were accused of harassing and threatening villagers forcing them to buy Zanu PF party cards.
War veterans on November 6 allegedly threatened to violently “flush out” all MDC-T supporters from Bikita West.
During the meeting, the villagers were threatened with beatings and attacks worse than the 2008 election political violence.