Zanu PF had wagered on convincing Sadc leaders that harmonised elections be held this year, with or without a new constitution and a raft of other reforms spelt out in the Global Political Agreement (GPA) which brought about the coalition government presently running the country.
Its game plan was that it would force a victory in the election of the president in the best way it knows how. Its victory would be crucial and would be based on the old methods it has used before in winning such elections, namely, coercion, violence and the manipulation of the voting process through a partisan electoral commission and an equally partisan registrar-general. After clinching the presidential election for Mugabe, Zanu PF had planned to manage its succession politics without the pressure of having to face another poll in the too near future. This would have enabled Mugabe to anoint a successor, mentor him or her for a while before handing over power. Power would have remained firmly in the hands of Zanu PF.
But, as it turned out, the plan has aborted. This is because in its desperation, the party bungled in every department all the way to the Sadc summit. In the end, it only got support for its early elections call, from that clowning Zambian President, Michael Sata.
What turned the Sadc leadership against Zanu PF must have been its concerted fight against the election roadmap as spelt out in the GPA. In the past few months the party went on a fully-fledged campaign to discredit the constitution-making process. The campaign was led by none other than controversial MP for Tsholotsho North, Jonathan Moyo.
What must have raised eyebrows was why Zanu PF was reneging so wilfully on an agreement it had willingly appended its signature to in September 2008. It must also have been interesting to regional leaders that Zanu PF allowed Moyo, who has been on a warpath with the Sadc-appointed facilitator to the transitional process, South African President Jacob Zuma, to lead its campaign. It is common knowledge there is no love lost between Moyo and Zuma’s adviser Lindiwe Zulu, on whom Moyo has stuck lots of unsavoury labels.
Moyo, interestingly, sought to delink the constitution-making process from the elections that would see the end of the coalition government; this was never going to fly considering that a new constitution is one of the major signposts demanded on the electoral roadmap.
The recent visit on a fact-finding mission by the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, must have shown to the world just how traumatised and polarised the Zimbabwean situation was by Zanu PF politics. At the end of the visit it was clear to everyone that Zimbabwe would not be ready for a free and fair election any time soon. Add to that the political murder of an MDC-T member in Mudzi and the writing was on the wall.
In spite of concerted efforts to stage manage Pillay’s tour by showing her only the glittering spots, she was intelligent enough to see through Zanu PF’s ruse. Justice minister Patrick Chinamasa’s show only managed to reinforce the world’s and Pillay’s worst fears, namely that Zimbabwe was still a politically poisoned country because the reforms that the GPA demanded had not been made. These included the writing of a new constitution, media reforms, political reforms, electoral reforms, national healing, security sector alignment and economic reforms.
Pillay was able to discern that Zanu PF was standing in the way of the writing of a new constitution by actively working against it through hawks such as Jonathan Moyo. She was also able to see that the same party was decidedly against media reforms. On this she noted that the Zimbabwe Media Commission seemed more concerned with controlling and censoring media than promoting freedom of expression. A day or so earlier, Zanu PF had made a blunder by allowing Media, Information and Publicity minister Webster Shamu to spell out its media policy to a parliamentary portfolio committee in which he stated categorically that there would not be media reforms.
Pillay had also seen that human rights violations such as the arrest of human rights defenders, journalists and political activists continued unabated and called for the amendment of the Criminal Procedure and Evidence Act, the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act, the Public Order and Security Act and the Broadcasting Services Act.
She said: “The corrosive effect of these laws and of other forms of past and current, albeit lower level, harassment and intimidation of political party activists, including restriction on their right to freedom of assembly, is deeply worrying.”
In one of the most shocking blunders, Chinamasa had immediately after Pillay’s farewell press conference, at which she strongly spoke against military interference in politics, contradicted her by saying that the military had the right to meddle in politics.
Sadc leaders, meeting in Luanda a few days later, could not have ignored Pillay’s findings and their implications to the resolution of the Zimbabwean conflict, Sadc being an affiliate of the UN.
Sadc’s directive that elections be only held after all the reforms stipulated in the GPA are done and finalised must have shocked Zanu PF to the core mainly because of its implication on Mugabe’s political future. In pushing for elections this year, the Zanu PF leadership was aware that it would be, according to Jonathan Moyo, “unreasonable and impractical” to field him as a candidate at any other time because of his old age and reported ill health.
The reforms that are still to be implemented before elections are many and so cannot be completed overnight. Add to that the referendum that must follow the conclusion of the constitution-making process and the steps that have to be taken toward national healing, then it becomes clear that we are in for the long haul.
Whichever way one looks at it Mugabe is unlikely to contest the next presidential election, which means the period between now and the election, whenever it is held, will the closing moments of his rule.