Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe has told supporters of the ruling ZANU-PF party to get ready for elections next year. President Mugabe and the ZANU-PF leadership had previously suggested delaying the 2008 presidential elections to coincide with the 2010 parliamentary elections. This would have extended Mugabe’s presidential term for two unchallenged years. But the main opposition party is calling on Zimbabweans to work together towards a future without Mugabe, whom the party describes as a stumbling block to democracy.
General Secretary Tendai Biti of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) told the Voice of America via telephone that the MDC is not going to be part of an election that would be rigged.
“Our position is very clear. First, we are concerned that an 83-year-old tyrant who has brought down this country into ten years of negative growth rate… would still want to stand. But we have made it very clear that we are not prepared to participate in an election that is a sham, participate in elections with the results predetermined,” he said.
Biti said the MDC wants free and fair elections in 2008.
“We want elections in 2008, but only under a different constitution and only under an overhauled form of the current and even an equal electoral delivery system, which in fact doesn’t deliver, but aborts,” Biti pointed out.
He said the MDC has disrupted plans by the ruling party to extend President Mugabe’s rule for two unchallenged years.
“It’s a victory that we have forced him (President Mugabe) to shift from 2010 to 2008. But he is now playing his last card, and the card that he is playing is the fact that the electoral regime is absolutely chaotic. Most importantly, we have got laws such as the Public Order Security Act, the Access to Information Act, which rivals apartheid laws and ensures that there are no independent television stations or newspapers,” he said.
Biti reiterated what he called intimidation tactics employed by the ruling party against the MDC.
“You can have access to the public in terms of public meetings, public protests and so forth. He can burn us to death, but we will not participate in that election and at the same time, the economic crisis will not go away. So there are two things that are not going to burn to death, and that is the opposition and its resurgent mood, and the economy, plus an international community that is no longer fooled by any Pan African rhetoric,“ he said.
Biti claims the MDC wants a constitution that respects the rights of Zimbabweans.
“We know what we want in this constitution. We want a strong bill of rights. We want independent pillars that overlooks like the anti-corruption commission and human rights commission. We want an executive that is accountable and with limited terms of office, so the content of the constitution is very simple. And we have been writing this constitution over and over again,” Biti said.
He notes that Zimbabweans essentially want what he describes as a legitimate government.
“Its not about money or time. It’s about legitimacy. You can’t have, 20 years after independence, a constitution that has been written in some hotel in Manchester, or in London, which has been bastardized by 17 years of horrible, diabolic amendments -- all in the creation of a de-facto one party state,” Biti said.