Zimbabwe’s Government of National Unity On The Brink?

President Robert Mugabe's party is relentlessly pushing for elections that would bring an end to the government of national unity, but mediators and the Movement for Democratic Change say that reforms are needed first.

Zimbabwe's government of national unity is headed towards another crisis over President Robert Mugabe's plans to hold elections in 2012.

The Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front (ZANUPF) insists that elections should be held a year earlier than envisioned in the Global Political Agreement (GPA) signed by ZANU-PF and the two factions of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) in January 2009.


The Southern African Development Community (SADC), which is mediating the crisis, plans to hold a summit on the topic in early February. Prime minister Morgan Tsvangirai, head of the larger MDC faction, and Welshman Ncube, who leads the smaller splinter MDC group, insist that elections cannot be held until the current constitutional reform process has been completed.


Tsvangirai told parliament in late December that he would not support elections until the government enacts legal, media and political reforms. All of those things are unlikely to happen soon due to political wrangling, dwindling funding and disagreements on the contents of the national report on constitutional reform that was supposedly drawn from a country-wide outreach programme.


International Crisis Group (ICG) senior research analyst Trevor Maisiri says that the current impasse over the national document may lead to a negotiated draft document. "That reference point may likely be the Kariba Draft Constitution, which was vehemently discarded as a reference document at the beginning of the process. The negotiated document will ensure that the referendum will basically be a non-contest for both parties, but they will all pull their members to vote in favour of the draft," says  Maisiri.


He argues that the most feasible timing for elections will be 2013 or beyond and says this is what SADC will endorse. This resonates with the stance of SADC facilitator and South African President Jacob Zuma that talk of elections at this juncture is counterproductive.


Sources within ZANU-PF say the rhetoric about elections will continue throughout the year.

"We know that it is not possible to hold elections this year because of the situation on the ground, but the party will continue with the election-speak so that our machinery will remain vigilant. Moreover, if it's not elections, what else is there to talk about? This is politics and our partymust remain relevant," confides a senior party source. SADC's influence over Zimbabwe remains crucial but limited. The regional bloc agreed last year to send monitors to work with the GPA's Joint Monitoring and Implementation Committee, but nothing has materialised to date.


The Zambian and Botswana governments say they are ready to send their representatives, but Tanzania has inexplicably held back.


The economy will add additional pressure to the political debate. The financial sector will be squeezed further, resulting in depressed economic activity. There are signs of agitation from organised labour, which has generally been patient with the slow pace of change since 2009. Teachers are talking about a strike, and the rest of the civil service may then follow.


via The Africa Report

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