Calls for elections by the Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front and the Movement for Democratic Change are just a bluff. Neither party wants the elections now or next year. They are not ready and the climate is not right.
The parties to the Global Political Agreement admitted in the document that brought about the inclusive government that elections were not only divisive but confrontational. In short, elections mean violence.
The parties agreed that it was essential to allow the agreement to “take root” before any elections and to give the people of Zimbabwe “breathing space and a healing period”.
Though the inclusive government has been in office for 13 months, the agreement has not taken root yet. But more importantly the people of Zimbabwe have not enjoyed any breathing space. Healing will probably take even longer than the five-year period allowed for normal elections.
Those calling for elections are forgetting that elections in Zimbabwe by their very nature have been violent throughout the country’s 30-year history and not only in the 10-years since the formation of the MDC.
In 1980, Robert Mugabe narrowly escaped death when his motorcade was bombed at the Masvingo aerodrome. A week later, the printing press at Mambo Press in Gweru, publishers of Moto, the only paper that was publishing articles in favour of the liberation movements, ZANU-PF and the Zimbabwe African People’s Union, was bombed.
In 1985 whole villages of supporters of ZAPU were burned in what was then termed “perm”. During the elections a ZAPU supporter who had taken refuge at a police station in Kwekwe was dragged out and beaten to death.
In 1990 former Gweru mayor Patrick Kombayi was shot and disabled for the rest of his life.
The violence intensified after the 2000 referendum on the draft constitution which was the first national defeat for ZANU-PF. The MDC, which had been formed months earlier, also became ZANU-PF’s biggest challenge since independence.
But what made things worse was that the country was holding parliamentary elections only three months after the referendum. ZANU-PF was staring defeat in the eyes and unleashed unprecedented violence which enabled it to narrowly win the election.
The country has not known any peace since then because it was holding elections of one form or another nearly every year.
In 2001 the country held national local government elections which saw the MDC taking over the major cities. This was followed in 2002 by the Presidential elections.
There were two national elections in 2005, parliamentary elections in March and towards the end of the year, senate elections.
Three years later, there were unified national elections with the MDC winning the parliamentary elections and ZANU-PF the senate.
Now mediator South African President Jacob Zuma says the country should have elections next year.
Besides their divisive nature, the climate is not right for any elections. The MDC, despite public posturing, is not ready for the elections. It has never had time to build the party, which has up to now largely won elections by default, because all that the people want is for Mugabe to go and not necessarily that they support the MDC.
If anything, contrary to media speculation, it is ZANU-PF that is ready for the elections. It may not be popular, but it is ready for elections any time and has been campaigning and rebuilding its structures ever since.
But the major question everyone must ask before any elections is: What has fundamentally changed between March 2008 and now that can allow free and fair elections whose verdict will be accepted by the very people that usurped the 2008 verdict? If nothing has changed, why waste people’s time?
The second question is: Who is going to fund the elections? The government does not have money to come up with a new constitution. It does not have money to repair roads. So why waste money on elections which can be overturned anyway if the results are not to one party’s liking?
Rushing elections could easily plunge the nation back to chaos.