HARARE – President Robert Mugabe has ended 2012 by virtually confirming that his call for an early election was a farce all along.
Political rivals and analysts say a month-long annual leave he has taken at a time when his struggling Zanu PF party needs him most ahead of polls has all but confirmed that Mugabe is actually planning for an election much later in 2013, possibly well after June.
Earlier in December, Mugabe shocked all and sundry when his party’s annual conference resolved that he unilaterally calls for elections to get rid of the “dysfunctional unity” government by Christmas.
Instead, what they got was a man on the run as Mugabe on Wednesday left for the Far East and will not be back at work until after a month, which means a March election is out of the question. Political analysts say Mugabe’s announcement was somehow shocking considering that his party is deeply divided with factions warring to succeed him tearing each other apart.
All along Mugabe, who turns 89 in February next year, had made the nation and the world believe that he wanted an early election but his farce had been unravelled by his month-long sabbatical to the Far East.
With Mugabe away, government business grounds to a halt and analysts and opposition leaders say the Zanu PF leader is not committed to tackling the country’s mounting challenges ahead of a watershed election due next year.
At Zanu PF’s conference, Mugabe admitted that corruption was gnawing at his party core but with him away, it is unlikely that rampant corruption will be tackled anytime soon. George Charamba, Mugabe’s spokesperson says his boss’ absence will not affect government business.
“The President goes on annual leave regularly. It is timed to coincide with that time when there is general slowdown in business and that does not take away the resolution of Zanu PF,” Charamba said in a statement.
“When he comes back, there should be progress, but if the document is not ready, that means there will be something that still needs discussion with the (inclusive government) Principals. Let us not be . . . gleaning some quarters who think the fortunes or misfortunes should be put on the doorstep of the President.
“There is no necessary link with him going on leave and the progress of the constitution-making process.” He added: “With or without the new constitution, we will go ahead with the presidential schedule which is not affected by him going on leave.”
But Mugabe’s opponents say the former school teacher-turned-guerrilla war leader and Zimbabwe’s first post-independence ruler whose political life is now on the ropes is insincere and ill-disposed for another gruelling election. Douglas Mwonzora, MDC spokesperson said Mugabe has been posturing throughout 2012.
“The public stance taken by President Mugabe is political posturing. He knew that given the obstacles put by his party to the constitution, it was going to be impossible to complete the new constitution before Christmas.
“He also knew that he would not be available to receive any representatives from the special committee. Therefore what he was saying seriously lacked sincerity,” said Mwonzora.
Mwonzora, who is also the co-chairperson of Copac, a parliamentary body charged with writing a new constitution, admitted that with Mugabe away, progress in the stymied process would be naught. “We have to wait until he is back in order to start moving again,” said Mwonzora.
Qubani Moyo, policy director in Industry minister Welshman Ncube’s MDC formation suggested that Mugabe should have holidayed in the country to avoid delaying government programmes. “Mugabe has never been serious about the lives of the people of Zimbabwe and therefore we are not surprised that he is taking his gallivanting at a time he must make critical decisions.
“Clearly, while Professor Ncube has been around to ensure that there is finality in the constitution-making process, Mugabe shows that he is afraid of an early election. That is why he is taking a sabbatical,” said Moyo.
Moyo added that Mugabe is not worth the vote of the people as he has failed them throughout 2012. “He is not sincere and he is not worth the vote of the people. Mugabe is the one who sets deadlines and must be seen to take action according to his word.
“True leaders do not go on leave when the country is on fire they solve the problem first and then take a break when everything is in order,” said Moyo. Pedzisai Ruhanya, the Director of the Zimbabwe Democracy Institute, a local research think tank, accused Mugabe of standing “against the return to political sanity in this country”.
“They (Zanu PF) have been the biggest beneficiaries to the chaotic and undemocratic political administration of Zimbabwe since 1980. Their interests are parochial and personal.
“If Mugabe was a true nationalist, he should have suspended his holiday and address the Copac constitutional draft impasse that his party has largely caused through unreasonable and undemocratic demands,” said Ruhanya. Zanu PF has made wholesome changes to the Copac-authored draft that was completed in June.
Chapters in the constitution that Mugabe’s Zanu PF revised include the whittled presidential imperial powers, devolution and the setting up of a Prosecuting Authority. Ruhanya said without grassroots support, Mugabe is pinning his hopes on the state security apparatus that include the army as he is not confident of winning a free and fair poll.
“Zanu PF without the use of state organised violence is the least party prepared for elections. Where does it get the confidence to win a free and fair election? After all, at 89 years old, Mugabe is no longer electable,” said Ruhanya.
“Zanu PF knows that to parade an 89-year-old as a candidate is not only an insult to the voters but a recipe for a monumental electoral defeat. In this regard, there could be behind-the-scenes succession debates and political shenanigans in Zanu PF to do with Mugabe’s old age as candidate. This is why for the past three years, Zanu PF’s call for elections did not materialise.” Daily News