At the recent extraordinary SADC Troika on Defence, Politics and Security meeting held in Angola last week, South African President Jacob Zuma and several of his allies indicated most strongly that Zimbabwe should postpone its elections until a new political compromise between the ruling ZANU-PF and its sometimes coalition partner, the MDC, can be agreed. There has been pressure to produce a new constitution and an agreement on other ‘reforms’ suggested by the leaders of the MDC, Tsvangirai and Biti. Zuma, who considers himself a mediator in the internal politics of Zimbabwe, has pushed SADC to refuse to allow the Zimbabwe Government to hold the elections until this agreement has been reached.
This may sound reasonable to those who have a particular axe to grind against Mugabe and the ZANU-PF as a result of the violence and discord which occurred during the last election but it is a position which defies the constitutional rules and masks a real fear that the MDC would have trouble getting itself elected to even a municipal dogcatcher post outside of Bulawayo after their concentration in office on becoming the new ‘Wabenzi’ (the people of the Mercedes-Benz); their appointment of girlfriends and relatives to high positions of power in the coalition government, and their concentration on obtaining personal wealth from allowances from the dwindling public treasury. Their track record in office is appalling and they know it. As Mugabe pointed out at the meeting, the legal term of office of the MPs is due to end soon under the constitution and an extension of time before the next election would lead to an illegitimate government run by politicians whose terms had already expired. Clearly for many of the SADC leaders constitutional violations have never been their major concern but for those who seek legitimacy in following the Rule of Law it is an issue.
Biti suggested that the lifespan of Parliament would only expire in June 2013, five years after Mugabe was sworn in accordance with section 28(5) of the Constitution, meaning that elections would have to be held within four months after its dissolution. That, of course, would mean five months of rule by an illegitimate government. The ZANU-PF spokesman, Gumbo, accused the two MDC factions of misinterpreting the SADC resolutions. These merely stated that the suggested reforms should be implemented within 12 months; not that the election should be suspended until the reforms were agreed.
This was important for the country as the current all-inclusive government which resulted from the SADC-enforced compromise after the last election was unsatisfactory. An election would yield a clear winner; something that Mugabe indicated that the MDC feared.
Tsvangirai read a prepared statement for his faction of the MDC suggesting elections between June and November 2013 but the erstwhile leader of the other MDC faction, Welshman Ncube, attacked Mugabe as a stumbling block in the road to the new election and cited Mugabe’s dissatisfaction with the inclusive government. Mugabe pointed out that Ncube was unelected; his sub-faction of the MDC was split and that he did not recognise him but instead, he recognised Arthur Mutambara, whom he had sworn in as deputy prime minister. He didn’t recognise Ncube’s right to participate in the proceedings or make such earnest interjections.
Mizengo Pinda, the Prime Minister of Tanzania sided with the MDC and repeatedly denied that there was any need to follow the constitutional dates. Fortunately another participant, Michael Sata, the newly elected President of Zambia (aged 75) was able to contribute his views supporting Mugabe. He chided the young MDC leadership as callow youths without a proper track record in African liberation struggles. Sata said Mugabe had no business discussing issues with "these boys who were not there in 1963 (at the formation of ZANU), like Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, who was on holiday, while the two presidents fought colonial regimes in their respective countries".
There seems to be a certain advantage in having a memory longer than six or seven years in politics; the point of the Shona proverb quoted above. Obviously one has to make an exception for Zuma who really should know better.