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Zimbabwe – Elections and intimidation

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Key unresolved issues are the need for elections under free(ish) and fair(ish) conditions with an autonomous electoral commission (ZEC) and reform of the degraded voters roll. There is continuing battle over indigenization, and uses of diamond resources, the post-Mugabe agenda, SADC engagement including security sector ‘governance’. Regional leaders receiving churches and NGOs lobbying on these issues expressed greater reservations about Mugabe and ZANU-PF, including worries over the vacuum expected on Mugabe’s death. Churches see their task as peace building in a situation of divided communities, but worry if senior politicians/military get more involved, semi-controlled violence will reignite. 

Z2Most believe that ZANU-PF, especially the hardliners, is gearing up for elections using their favoured tactics of repression, denial of political space, intimidation and misinformation. With no movement on security sector governance, there are concerns that retrenched soldiers are still on the payroll, busy organising structures of violence. Military demands for 30% of seats for ‘retired’ service chiefs are deeply unpopular with ZANU MPs and members. ZANU-PF ‘moderates’ do not want an election despite the calls for June 2012 and are waiting for Mugabe’s demise.
Leaks on the yet unpublished constitutional draft say there are 17 thematic sectors agreed. It is possible that the new constitution would be slipped through a parliamentary debate rather than a pre-election referendum, contrary to the inter-party Global Political Agreement (GPA). ZANU party members resent the leadership’s continuing unchecked corruption such as blatant stealing of resources like fertiliser intended for small farmers and the elite running up huge unpaid electricity bills meaning power cuts for the poor. There is little trickle down from farm seizures and indigenisation. There is also all-party rifling of the $50,000 constituency funds. Mugabe might sack a token blatantly corrupt minister or two as a populist move.
Who will inherit the post-Mugabe future? ZANU-PF lacks domestic and international legitimacy and has declining regional support. It also has decrepit party structures, massive unpopularity, and constant battle between factions as Mugabe refuses to nominate a successor. MDC is weaker with Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai appearing disengaged while being at loggerheads with his main rival Finance Minister Tendai Biti. As MDC lacks the ability to overcome the military, there are rumours of secret talks going on between Tsvangirai and some of the ZANU-PF factions, notably the one in decline led by Vice-President Joice Mujuru, and the rising one of Emmerson Mnangagwa plus Sydney Sekeramayi. The factions were coming closer last year under Joice’s late husband Solomon Mujuru shown by the agreement that Mujuru would tell Mugabe it was time to go. No-one believes Mujuru’s death was an accident. The succession question is not just who succeeds Mugabe but whether ZANU-PF can survive as a party.
ZANU has, however, decided it is more lucrative to seem to cooperate with the Kimberley Process, as on the legal market diamonds fetch $70 per carat versus $5 -10 illegally. If Minister Biti gets even 10% of the market it will have an effect on the economy. Civil society was allowed a visit to the Marange diamond under strictly controlled conditions excluding ‘political’ questions such as where the revenues were going and who controlled or were shareholders in the companies. The company unconvincingly said they didn’t know how many diamonds they processed. Allegedly, the elite picks up funds from illegal diamond sales in Mauritius. Civil society has been in dialogue with the ministries of finance and of mines about a Diamonds Bill.
Z3Governments in the region have become irritated by ZANU-PF and by the EU continuing targeted sanctions. After Mugabe’s attack on SADC at the party conference in December, the South African foreign minister said no elections before a constitutional referendum and they would have to be free and fair. There will be a Zimbabwe negotiators delegation to talk to the EU in mid May about progress in removing sanctions.
Who can stop continuing intimidation, the security forces control of rural areas, and total state control of the broadcast media? ZANU’s strategy to civil society is repression, cooption and elimination given they are seen as paid by Western regime-changers. A CSO director saw their task as mobilising people to vote in elections with IDs, voter education and working to reform the voters roll. One plan is to increase voter turnout through building mutual support networks and use of mobile phones and social media. There is an MDC-inspired Global Advocacy Campaign (GAC) highlighting free and fair elections , ending violence and a constitutional and peaceful transfer of power depending on results. NGOs are uncertain how independent it is.
Pragmatic activists do not expect maximum electoral conditions, but say who counts the vote is crucial. Some focus on returning the state to the citizens from the party regime, ensuring the neutrality of National Security Council, military, police, traditional chiefs, Attorney-General’s office and the media. Others stress free broadcast media (including both community and alternative national voice, not just equal access to national state/party broadcaster), voters roll, and regional accompaniment and supervision of police.
Although SADC is pushing harder, with greater access to it by churches and civil society, there is dangerous reliance on it. No parties have policies (perhaps excluding the Finance Minister) to overcome multiple crises. Some wait for Mugabe to die as the game changer; others are even vaguer in terms of expecting the unexpected. International solidarity needs to continue but the messages are complex and contradictory.

Steve Kibble

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