In Zimbabwe, a senior political science lecturer at the University of Zimbabwe, says the leader of the main opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) is trying to allay the fears of citizens who suspect the opposition party is making deals with President Robert Mugabe led ZANU-PF government. John Makumbe says the demands made by MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai for a level political playing field and an end to violence against MDC supporters is to re-establish the credibility of his party.
Tsvangirai said Saturday during the eight-year celebration of the MDC that the party’s participation in next year’s national elections would depend on negotiations at the Southern African Development Community-sponsored peace talks with President Robert Mugabe's government. The talks are meant to resolve the political and economic crisis facing the country. From the capital Harare, John Makumbe tells reporter Peter Clottey that all is not lost for the opposition MDC.
“I think he is trying to backtrack now. He is trying to appease largely the people who are suspicious that some deals are being made with ZANU-PF, which might result in an unsatisfactory situation developing in 2008 because people do not trust Robert Mugabe at all. They know him to be a cunning fox and so they would really like the MDC to be on level with them,” Makumbe pointed out.
He said looking at the historical perspective of negotiations between the ruling ZANU-PF party and the opposition, the demands made by the opposition would more than likely not yield any positive results for the MDC.
“I have known ZANU-PF to be very difficult in virtually all the benchmarks, particularly, the leveling of the political playing field, and free and fair elections, the composition of the Zimbabwe electoral commission and so forth are going to be very difficult for ZANU-PF to acquiesce to, to agree to make any substantive changes,” he said.
Makumbe said there is a chance the MDC might feel deceived into agreeing to a recent section 18-constitution amendment proposed by ZANU-PF in parliament.
“It is very likely that now that amendment number 18 has been passed, ZANU-PF could very easily turn around and say nothing else would change. And if that happens the MDC would be stuck in the middle,” Makumbe explained.
He said there is some truth in Tsvangirai’s assertion, that elections in recent times have not been free and fair.
“In the past, elections have largely been pre-determined. That is really a polite way to say they have been rigged. And yes, in the past, the election results have been stolen, and there is no guarantee now that the 2008 elections would not be stolen in like manner. What Morgan Tsvangirai is asking for the benchmark is that the conditions and the terms prevailing circumstances in the political playing field must be such that a fair and free and transparent election process would actually occur. And that I can assure you ZANU-PF does not cherish such a development because it knows that under free and fair conditions it will lose the elections. And ZANU-PF is not in fact preparing to lose the election,” he noted.
Makumbe said the current SADC-mediated talks between ZANU-PF and the MDC can only yield positive results for the MDC if the ruling party agrees to the demands of change the opposition is asking for.
“I think if the talks result in the benchmarks outlined by Morgan Tsvangirai being met by ZANU-PF, then the talks would have really achieved something. But my fear is that Robert Mugabe is going to twist and turn, and I believe he is setting a huge trap for the MDC, and they are walking right into it. They walked right into it by voting in favor of amendment number 18 and I think they have made several other concessions including agreeing to where no new constitution would be written before these elections. And I think that is quite unfortunate,” Makumbe stated.