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Arthur Mutambara: A shameful betrayal of our Independence

By Arthur G.O. Mutambara

ROBERT Mugabe’s political strategy in Zimbabwe is very clear. He wants to win the Presidential run-off on June 27, 2008, by any means necessary, and at any cost.

The brutality of the methods and tactics being employed has been extensively documented. The key elements include political violence, intimidation of opponents, displacement of voters, elimination and harassment of polling agents and party campaigners, and arbitrary arrests and incarceration of political leaders.

There is electoral cleansing taking place in Zimbabwe. Opposition activists, members of civic society and ordinary citizens have bourne the terrible brunt of this brutality.

Demystifying the Mugabe Strategy

After winning the run-off, Mugabe will not only control the Presidency, but the Senate as well. According to Section 33 of the Zimbabwean Constitution, the institution of Parliament consists of two structures, the Senate and the House of Assembly. The two MDC formations working together hold the majority in the House of Assembly with 109 seats versus 97 belonging to Zanu PF, which is now the new opposition.

In the Senate, the combined MDC strength is equal to that of Zanu PF at 30 seats each. Hence, of the total 270 elected seats in both the House of Assembly and Senate, the two MDC formations have a 12-seat majority over Zanu PF. In this regard, they hold claim to the moral authority of representing the will of the people.

However, in addition to the 60 elected Senators, the Zimbabwean constitution gives the person elected as President the power to appoint up to 33 members of the Senate: 10 Provincial Governors, 18 Chiefs, and 5 extra Senators. It is clear, therefore, that the balance of power in the combined Parliamentary institution consisting of the Senate and the House of Assembly depends on who is elected as President.

If Mugabe wins, Zanu PF will overturn MDC’s elected majority. In addition to controlling the Presidency, Zanu PF will effectively control the Senate with 63 legislators against the combined MDC strength of 30. The Zanu PF majority of 33 in the Senate will wipe out the MDC’s majority of 12 in the House of Assembly. This is why Mugabe is obsessed with winning this Presidential run-off come hell, come sunshine.

From this position of strength, Zanu PF and Mugabe will then want to engage the opposition as weak junior partners, even though the MDC collectively enjoys majority support of the electorate. They will not negotiate now, before the run-off, because they are in a much weaker position. They lost their parliamentary majority and Mugabe came second in the March 29 general elections. The bargaining power obtained from winning the run-off is so critical to them. With this victory, they might even dangle a Mugabe departure, where his successor from Zanu PF is elected national President by a joint sitting of the House of Assembly and Senate in which they will have a majority of 21.

Mugabes exit would be designed to pacify those in the international community who view Mugabe as the symbol and personification of the Zimbabwean crisis. This is the Zanu PF political strategy. The parliamentary succession is provided for by Amendment 18 to the Zimbabwean Constitution. This is why individuals who are keen to succeed Mugabe through this arrangement are orchestrating his violent re-election. While they are trying to protect themselves from prosecution for corruption, human rights violations and crimes against humanity, they are also driven by unbridled ambition and self-interest. Unfortunately they are compounding their risk as they pursue the retention of power at any cost.

Envisaging the Way Forward

It is abundantly clear that there are efforts to steal the Presidential run-off by any means necessary. Mugabe has already threatened war in the event of his electoral defeat. The challenge is what are we going to do if Mugabe and Zanu PF impose themselves on the people of Zimbabwe? What is the appropriate response to the Zanu PF strategy by Zimbabweans, Africans and the international community? If Mugabe, whom we charge with committing violations of human rights in pursuit of political power, cannot ensure a free and fair election, SADC, AU and the international community must hold him accountable.

The winner of an unfair and unfree election must be under no illusions with respect to the implications of such criminal conduct. Those that govern must do so with the consent of the governed. The will of the people must be sovereign. Consequently, the victor in a fraudulent vote will neither have the legitimacy to govern, nor receive recognition internally or externally. There should be neither recognition nor support from SADC, AU and the international community for such a criminal and failed State.

More importantly we, as the Zimbabwean opposition, will not recognise a national leadership produced by a fraudulent process. We will not enter into any negotiations with such an illegal regime. There will be absolutely no compromise, retreat or surrender on this position. No one should force the Zimbabwean political parties, who won a majority of the votes on March 29, into negotiations with an illegitimate ruler. We hope that President Thabo Mbeki and other African leaders are listening carefully and understand our disposition clearly. We mean what we are saying, and we will walk the talk.

SADC, AU and the international community should not even contemplate coming to us after the almost certain fraud on June 27. There will be no engagement with an illegal government. We will not give legitimacy and dignity to the illegal regime by seeking an accommodation with them. They will run the country on their own. They will have to salvage the collapsed economy on their own. Zimbabweans will not accept a government of national unity (GNU) rooted in illegitimacy and accomplished through genocide

The international community, AU, SADC and SA must understand this without equivocation or ambiguity. The Zimbabwean opposition will never be part of such a shameless betrayal of values and principles. What we believe in is an inclusive government based on a free and fair poll. Nothing else is acceptable. If Mugabe wins a free and fair election we will congratulate him, recognise his regime and work with it in pursuit of the national interest.

We are all witnessing the corruption and manipulation of the democratic processes in Zimbabwe while we sit passively. Now is the time to act and not after the fraudulent outcome. All factors considered, canceling the run-off is no longer a practical or realistic option. There must now be increased efforts to ensure that the election on June 27 is as close to freeness and fairness as possible. This is now almost impossible, but we must not give up. The struggle must continue.

The objective should be to establish and guarantee some integrity and fidelity of the entire electoral value chain; from the campaign activities, voting and counting processes, the announcement of the results, and the installation of the victor. There must be freedom of assembly, association and expression. All political detainees must be freed, and unfettered access to the State media ensured.

Measures must be put in place immediately to stop all politically motivated violence. An inter-party liaison committee assisted by SADC must be speedily deployed to attend to all claims of violence, while an SADC or UN peace-keeping force is urgently needed to help put down the attacks. The election is ward based, hence when voters are moved away from their home areas they cannot vote. Consequently, the displacements of persons must be immediately stopped and reversed. All displaced people must be assisted back to their wards by SADC. Those that have had their identity documents seized must have them replaced.

External election observers should have arrived in Zimbabwe on June 1. There must be at least 9000+ observers for the 9000+ polling stations. The fact that we have a paltry 450+ observers that arrived last week, and who spent their time holed up in a hotel in Harare is a travesty of justice. What is wrong with these SADC and AU leaders? The observers must stay in the constituencies and wards overnight to witness and deter acts of violence. The opposition must have at least 18 000+ polling agents, i.e. at least two per polling station. This requires planning, logistics, security and resources.

While we appreciate the SADC facilitated dialogue between the key protagonists in Zimbabwe, it has become a meaningless farce. How do you negotiate when the political leadership of the MDC is detained, harassed and intimidated? How serious is Mugabe about the dialogue? The silence and lack of effective action on the part of African leaders is despicable. No, President Mbeki we are not impressed at all.

For the doctrine of African solutions to African problems to be meaningful and respected, there must be bold and proactive leadership by Africans. SADC, the AU and the UN must clearly indicate and explain to the Mugabe regime the consequences of a stolen election, as outlined above. The key message should be that there will be neither recognition nor support. There will be total isolation. This communication must be done both privately and publicly. The personal liability, with respect to national and international laws, of individuals who are directing and executing the violence in Zimbabwe should be clearly articulated.

When all is said and done, Zimbabweans shall be masters of their own destiny. We cannot outsource the management of our public affairs to foreigners. We must close ranks in this darkest hour. The pursuit of a peaceful, prosperous and democratic Zimbabwe requires the involvement and commitment of every citizen. The starting point is working together to ensure that the outcome of the upcoming election is accepted by all Zimbabweans, both winners and losers. Clarity about the meaning of, and the response options to, a stolen election is imperative. History will never absolve us if we equivocate and prevaricate. The outside world can only help us help ourselves.

The Struggle Must Continue.

Arthur G.O. Mutambara is president of a faction of the MDC
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