No date good enough for elections without reforms - David Mutomba

Over the past few weeks political debate has shifted a gear up following the SADC Luanda meeting at which SADC made its demands clear on Zimbabwe's on-going political processes, key the constitutional reform, outstanding Global political Agreement issues and the call for elections. I use the word demands because that is what SADC did besides how the communiqué is couched in diplomatic language on the need for Government of National Unity partners to agree on a process towards an undisputable election. The levels of desperation by those in ZANU PF are clearly visible as they seek to reverse the SADC decision in public debates and in the media. On the other hand the momentum is now back on the issue and question of reforms before elections. I emphasise reforms as compared to dates or deadlines because the resolution of the Zimbabwe political crisis is not based on timelines but reforms.

The talk of election dates by both ZANU PF and the MDCs parties is therefore misplaced and misleading because the parties will now focus on either March 2013 or June 2013 and not necessarily on what needs to be done. Morgan Tsvangirai and Welshman Ncube must be reminded therefore that no date is good enough for elections without reforms. To be honest the ordinary citizen of Zimbabwe does not care whether parliamentary mandate expires in March or June 2013, and neither cares if there will be a constitutional crisis in that period if elections are not held. Talking about election dates and foisting them on citizens as if Zimbabwe will explode if elections are not held by that time is being unfair to citizens whose probably only concern is survival and peace.

The GNU is a creature out of changes to the old constitution, and it took a constitutional amendment to put it in place, nothing stops the current GNU to remain in place until and when reforms are put in place with the help of SADC. If there is to be any timeframe, it should be on the reform agenda and not elections. In the same vein Civil society needs to argue and forcefully so that the issue and only game in town at this moment is the reform agenda. This message needs to be taken to SADC with clear specifics on CSO demands. On top of the agenda is the need to reform the whole electoral system and the need to register new voters without discrimination. As of now millions remain unregistered and unaware of what needs to be done to get registered. Yet we are told that voter registration is an ongoing process. It appears this is done in secrecy and reports of deliberate distortions of the voters roll and registration processes have already been noted. Add to this there is need for the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission to be freed from the shackles of the military and the intelligence as well as capacitated to operate as an independent body.

The military and other security agents must be asked to return to the dictates of the constitutional order, which others have chosen to call security sector reform. ZANU PF is unashamedly asking the military to campaign for the party on the basis that some civic groups such as organised labour, support the MDC parties. The stupid reasoning by ZANU PF Secretary for Administration Didymus Mutasa that soldiers can therefore campaign for ZANU PF is not only baffling but a declaration of war on the people of Zimbabwe. This means that whether elections are in June 2013, 2014 or 2015 as long these key matters are not resolved then CSOs must not support a date based election call. I repeat that it is time civil society organisations get more organised around making specific demands as well as raise public awareness that the issue is not about dates but reforms.

The citizens of Zimbabwe are being misled by the state owned media that the only solution to the Zimbabwe crisis is an election. Zimbabwe had two elections in 2008 and they did not solve our problems, the solution to Zimbabwe's crisis is therefore somewhere else that is the need for a legitimate, democratically elected government as well as peace. No elections and certainly no political party and leader are worth dying for. The peace dividend that citizens have received from this GNU is worth defending. The fact that there is discordance in ZANU PF on its messaging on peace is a key reminder to CSOs and other parties that Zimbabwe will plunge; further, into the abyss should an election be attempted without reforms. There is need for guarantees to the people of Zimbabwe on the need for peaceful political processes and that we cannot spend our lives in political battles that are not of our making nor in our interest. Our message from now going forward should be reforms, reforms and reforms and nothing else.

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