Call for early election reignites political violence

Civil society organisations, the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) and the majority of Zimbabweans have indicated that elections in the country must be held after necessary democratic reforms are carried out. However, ZANU PF remains adamant that elections should be held without genuine reforms. The calls for early polls by the political party have reignited political violence, according to statistics released by civic groups.

The Zimbabwe Peace Project (ZPP) February 2012 report, noted a 15% increase in human rights violations that are "directly linked" to the new push for polls in 2012. In the report ZPP says President Robert Mugabe's efforts to force elections this year resulted in 413 reported cases of rights violations in February alone, compared to 365 cases reported by witnesses in January.

Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe (PTUZ) also reported increased victimisation of teachers since the call of elections by President Mugabe gained momentum during the beginning of 2012. Six teachers from Gwangwava Primary School in Rushinga, according to the union, were forcibly transferred in March 2012 to other schools in Bindura after war veterans and Zanu (PF) supporters said they did not want the teachers in their community.

Mugabe has not yet set the date for the polls, but he is evidently in a hurry to move ahead with an election while ignoring the fact that this could lead to another sham election reminiscent of the March 2008 plebiscite. While the GPA has set benchmarks for the staging of fresh polls, President Mugabe appears eager to have elections this year with or without a new constitution and other political reforms prescribed in the GPA.  His insistence on polls has sparked wide speculation on the reasons behind his eagerness. Some have cited his advancing age as one of the many reasons why his party, ZANU-PF, is in a hurry to hold polls this year instead of 2013. Others cite the acrimony that has rendered the inclusive government dysfunctional.

The conviction of the two MDC formations to reject the push for a sham election has underlined both the gravity of the challenge to the Zanu PF regime and the determination of its opponents to hold undisputed polls. Another controversial election does not augur well for the country, which is still battling to recover from years of bad governance characterised by social, political and economic meltdown. Another sham poll is seen further stagnating the economy with the possibility of taking Zimbabwe back to the pre-GNU era where the economic, social service and political spheres plunged into an abyss.

SADC should ensure that there are necessary conditions in place before the elections take place and these conditions may take time, but it is far better to spend time in building a solid foundation rather than build hastily on an unreliable foundation.

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