Top Mugabe ally sees Feb polls
by James Mombe
JOHANNESBURG – Zimbabweans could go to polls in eight months’ time to choose a new government to replace the troubled coalition of President Robert Mugabe and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, a top official has said.
Defence Minister and top Mugabe confidante Emmerson Mnangagwa told Britain’s Sunday Telegraph newspaper that the timing of elections depended on the completion of ongoing constitutional reforms that he said could be wrapped up by next October.
“This (timing of elections) is not set in stone but assuming that a referendum on a new constitution is held and accepted, then the time frame for elections after that is a period of four months. If we were to have a referendum in October, then we would be looking at February for an election,” said Mnangagwa.
A leading candidate to succeed Mugabe as leader of the ZANU (PF) party and possibly president of Zimbabwe, Mnangagwa is considered one of the country’s most influential political figures.
As Defence Minister he chairs the Joint Operations Command, a secretive body of powerful securocrats that is seen as virtually wielding veto power on the country’s troubled transition process.
Mnangagwa is also legal secretary of ZANU (PF) that has been pushing for elections this year and only backtracked on early polls after pressure from the Southern African Development Community that wants any future vote to take place after adoption of a new constitution and implementation of other key reforms to ensure smooth transfer of power to winners.
His prediction of a February vote could be indication of ZANU (PF)’s preferred date of elections after failing to force polls this year.
Under an election roadmap or charter ZANU (PF), Tsvangirai’s MDC and a splinter faction of the Prime Minister’s party are crafting, Parliament would need to first pass amendments to the Electoral Act and the Public Order and Security Act, while the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission must clean up the chaotic voters’ roll and the country adopts a new constitution before polls can take place
The parties say they have already reached agreement on most of the issues. But analysts say the parties are likely to clash on security sector reforms, especially MDC demands to keep the military out of elections and the withdrawal of the army from the countryside where the MDC made significant gains in the March 2008 general election.
Zimbabwe’s military brass has been accused of being openly partisan in an effort to intimidate ZANU (PF) opponents to vote for the octogenarian Mugabe, the country’s sole ruler since independence from Britain in 1980.
ZANU (PF) denies the military has deployed personnel in the countryside and rejects any attempts to reform the security services.
The roadmap and the reforms to prepare the ground for free and fair elections should be ready by August when SADC hosts its annual summit.
Meanwhile Mnangagwa, who praised the unity government for stabilising Zimbabwe, told the British paper that he has no ambition to succeed Mugabe.
“I have no ambitions to be president. People speculate left right and centre but we have a structure in our party with a president and two vice-presidents. The leadership has to come out of that group, and I am not part of it. I just wish a legacy of peace, prosperity and growth for the younger generation,” he said.
But analysts say regular claims by various leaders from ZANU (PF) that they have no presidential ambitions are nothing more than attempts to curry favour with Mugabe by being seen as not too ambitious to takeover his job. —