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Electorate confused over poll dates

BY NQABA MATSHAZI

More than five months into the year, Zimbabweans are no wiser as to when the next elections will be held with Global Political Agreement (GPA) principals seemingly pulling in different directions and giving contradictory statements.

At least four dates are being cited as the time when elections would be held. Zanu PF prefers to have polls this year, while Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai has announced elections could be held sometime next year.

But others say 2013 is the most feasible date and yet again, Tsholotsho legislator, Jonathan Moyo has claimed that if elections are not held this year, then they should be no polls till 2016.

Just when the nation was beginning to warm to the idea that elections would not be held this year, President Robert Mugabe thunderously announced that there was no reason why polls could not be held this year.

This follows a meeting of Mugabe’s Zanu PF party’s politburo, which reportedly berated its negotiator, Patrick Chinamasa for saying polls could not be held this year and proposing that they either be held next year or 2013.

But on the other hand, Tsvangirai told a press conference on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum summit in Cape Town, South Africa, that elections could only be held within 12 months but certainly not this year.

Welshman Ncube, leader of a faction of the MDC told a business conference in Bulawayo that elections were impossible this year, with the nearest possible date for a poll being March next year.

The main stumbling block, all parties claim, is the finalisation of a new constitution, which Mugabe insists should be completed this year, while Tsvangirai and Ncube’s parties claim that this is not possible.

Bulawayo legislator, David Coltart has waded into that debate saying Zanu PF’s proclamations should be ignored as it was impossible to complete the drafting of the new charter.

“No matter what Zanu PF says to Sadc (Southern African Development Community) leaders, fact is we cannot complete (the) constitutional reform process and have elections this year,” he wrote on micro-blogging site Twitter, last week.

“(We) cannot start electoral process in Zimbabwe until we know whether we have an executive president or prime minister, proportional representation or first past the post and dual citizenship or not.”

Coltart, a lawyer by profession, said any shortcuts that Zanu PF tried would be equivalent to tearing up the Sadc-brokered GPA.

Parties must allow wounds to heal— analysts

University lecturer and analyst Lawton Hikwa said it was obvious that at some point elections had to be held but having a poll this year might not be a priority, arguing that the constitution and economy needed more attention.

“This is causing unnecessary anxiety and it confirms that there are problems in the GPA,” he said. “Given the 2008 election violence, people still have fresh memories and having an election so soon may not be expedient.”

This anxiety, Hikwa argued, could be a deterrent to investment as it portrayed an unstable country at a time Zimbabwe is desperate for investors.
Hikwa said the best time to hold elections would most probably be either  late next year or in 2013, when the constitution would have been dealt with and the economy back on steady ground.

Another analyst, who preferred to remain anonymous, claimed there was a lot riding on this election and more so for Zanu PF than the other parties.
But he said he did not see Mugabe going ahead with polls this year, dismissing this week’s call as rhetoric and a way to test waters to see if election talk would gain favour with voters.

“Mugabe will not counter (South African president) Jacob Zuma, who has already spoken of conditions to be met before any elections are held,” the analyst said.
“He might be seen to be contradicting him (Zuma) but I think he is trying to show that he is his own man.”

Zuma has called for an electoral roadmap to be in place before polls, but Zanu PF seems to be singing a different tune. Its chairman, Simon Khaya-Moyo claimed his party was against the roadmap but would be bound by the GPA.

But without a definite date for elections, tension continues to mount with reports of violence and intimidation across the country.

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