ZIMBABWE – Opposition leaders led by Morgan Tsvangirai of the MDC-T on Wednesday signed a document committing to fight for electoral reforms ahead of the 2018 vote.
But the event was boycotted by a number of other political parties, indicating the lack of unity in the opposition ranks despite broad agreement on the need for electoral reforms.
The local opposition, led by Tsvangirai, disputes President Robert Mugabe’s triumph at the 2013 election, claiming that as with successive previous votes the Zanu PF leader cheated his way to victory.
MDC-T spokesman Obert Gutu said nine political parties signed the document which has been dubbed National Electoral Reforms Agenda (NERA).
The document speaks to the electoral reforms that the nine political parties would like to see implemented to enable free and fair elections in the future, he said.
I can also confirm that (MDC-T) leader Morgan Tsvangirai signed the NERA document.
Parties that signed the document include the MDC-led by Welshman Ncube, Zanu-Ndonga, Transform Zimbabwe, Zimbabwe United For Democracy, African Democratic Party, African Democratic Party and Progressive Democrats of Zimbabwe.
Several other parties including the National Constitutional Assembly, People’s Democratic Party led by Tendai Biti, Dumiso Dabengwa’s ZAPU and another outfit led by former energy minister Elton Mangoma boycotted the event.
Gutu downplayed their absence.
There is really no major problem here, he told VOA.
What I see is that this is the beginning of what I think are very exciting things to come.
Signing ceremony … Part of the crowd which attended the event at the Anglican Cathedral
The MDC-T and off-shoots from its splits over the years have boycotted recent by-elections demanding reforms to ensure a fairer contest.
The parties have vowed not to participate in any future elections until the reforms are implemented.
Zanu PF however, remains unmoved by the protest, telling its rivals they are welcome to stay away.
Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa has ruled out any electoral reforms, telling Tsvangirai that Zanu PF will continue to rule while he “makes noise outside government”.
“Zanu PF will not be moved by the reform mantra but will instead go ahead with the elections and will continue to rule forever,” Mnangagwa told a campaign rally in Mutare in June.
Still, the MDC-T is claiming that its pressure for reform is working.
Gutu revealed that the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) has called for a crucial all-party meeting Friday to discuss their concerns and come up with a strategic plan.
ZEC is going to hold a stakeholders consultative meeting on the 2016-2020 strategic plan formulation and we the MDC-T have been invited.
Again, from the document I have with me here, all the political parties in this country have also been invited, including Zanu PF, he said.
Efforts to get a comment from ZEC chairperson Rita Makarau were futile as her mobile phone went unanswered.
Gutu told Voice of America that reforms must be implemented ahead of the 2018 election.
Western countries back opposition claims that elections in Zimbabwe are neither free nor fair with sanctions maintained against the country since 2002 over allegations of vote fraud.
Mugabe has however enjoyed the key backing of the African Union and the regional SADC grouping apart from the 2008 vote.
After losing the first round of the presidential vote to Tsvangirai, Mugabe won the run-off poll on the back of widespread violence.
SADC then intervened and forced Mugabe to share power with his rival.