Zimbabwe’s main opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) said President Robert Mugabe’s government is trying to buy more time ahead of the presidential election run-off. The MDC says the ruling ZANU-PF party aims to continue using violence and intimidation against people in the rural areas to maintain President Mugabe’s 28-year-old rule. The accusation comes after the government reportedly said the run-off election would be held in three months. But the MDC described the move as illegal. Sydney Masamvu is a Zimbabwean with the International Crisis Group in South Africa. He tells reporter Peter Clottey from the capital, Pretoria that peaceful negotiations between the government and the opposition are needed to end Zimbabwe’s economic and political crises.
“I think the constitutional provisions are vague in the 21-day period because it also allows the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission to have the mandate to extend it. But be that as it may, actually it shows that the Zimbabwe government was not prepared, financially and logistically to have this election within the 21-day period as prescribed in the constitution.” Masamvu pointed out.
He said the run-off delay is not good news for the opposition.
“This 90-day period actually gives them (ruling party) room to sort of get the funds, you know about $60 million required to fund presidential run-off. But what is important is the 90-day period. But again we have not been given a specific date… actually there is room that the Zimbabwe government can still want to delay the process as far much as possible to allow it to actually consolidate its campaign of terror, which is currently underway to dismantle the opposition structures and win the presidential run-off by foul means,” he said.
Masamvu reiterated that only peaceful negotiations between the opposition and the Mugabe-led government could resolve the country’s economic and political impasse.
“If you go with 90 days which is actually three months and we actually want to see a situation where you have to weigh do you need a run-off or do you need a negotiated settlement? Or what does it benefit to the contesting parties? I think the bottom line is that ZANU-PF stands to benefit from this process by extending the number of days to consolidate their violent tactics, and this is closing the political space to the opposition,” Masamvu noted.
He said the election run-off would not bode well for reconciling the nation after President Mugabe’s 28-year uninterrupted rule since the country’s independence.
“Zimbabwe does not a run-off for the sake of national healing, for the sake of getting the country on course to recover economically and politically. What Zimbabwe needs is a negotiated settlement within those 90 days to kick-start a mediation process, which actually avoids a run-off, and allow the opposition and the ruling party to start a negotiation political settlement to carry the country forward,” he said.
Masamvu described as a calculated mistake the opposition’s decision to accept the ruling party said only local and regional observers would be allowed to monitor the run-off, effectively ruling out western poll observers.
“It’s a misplaced calculation by the MDC to say regional leaders are enough for the run-off. Actually this election, in so far as it is crucial to the resolution of the Zimbabwe crisis needs an international oversight. Zimbabwe does not need to engage with SADC (Southern African Development Community) only. It also needs the backing of its election process from the international oversight. And this is important not withstanding what the MDC is saying that regional, continental and international supervisors are allowed access to actually have a role and have an oversight in this election, which is critical to the resolution of the Zimbabwe crisis,” Masamvu pointed out.
Meanwhile, opposition MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai is reportedly planning to return to Zimbabwe after canvassing international sympathizers abroad to increase pressure on the Mugabe government. The party said Tsvangirai would begin campaigning Sunday ahead of the election run-off by addressing a rally in the commercial capital, Bulawayo.