July election on again for Zimbabwe

The on again/off again date of 31 July for Zimbabwe’s election now seems to be on again. On Thursday the Zimbabwe Supreme Court ruled unanimously against a request to postpone the date for two weeks.

As I reported a fortnight ago, president Robert Mugabe had originally set the date to comply with a court-imposed deadline, but agreed to request a postponement following objections both from Zimbabwe’s neighbors and from his opponent, prime minister Morgan Tsvangirai. The Voice of America report, however, says that Mugabe’s lawyer withdrew his application before the ruling, suggesting that the president may have changed his mind again.

Either way, the country is now set to vote for both president and parliament in just three and a half weeks time. Mugabe kicked off his campaign with a rally at which he made a typically outlandish prediction that he would win 90% of the vote. Tsvangirai is said to be staging his campaign launch today.

At the last election, in 2008, Tsvangirai’s Movement for Democratic Change won 51.3% of the vote and a majority of the seats in parliament (although some of those went to a dissident faction that doesn’t always support Tsvangirai). In the presidential poll, however, Tsvangirai pulled out after the first round – in which he led Mugabe by 47.9% to 43.2% – due to violence against his supporters and fears that the outcome was rigged.

Mugabe was duly re-elected, and a prolonged period of crisis was ended by the power-sharing arrangement (brokered by the regional organisation, the South African Development Community) under which Tsvangirai became prime minister in a unity government. While Zimbabwe remains by most measures a basket case, the deal has brought some economic stability and a reduction in violence.

Being opposition leader in Zimbabwe is not an easy job: Tsvangirai in his career has been imprisoned several times, beaten by police and charged with treason. But his persistence has been remarkable and he has stuck throughout to his belief that democratic change is possible.

And time is on his side. Mugabe is 89; win or lose, it’s hard to imagine this not being his last election. With a new constitution in place, Zimbabwe one way or another is engaged in the transition to the post-Mugabe era. It remains to be seen whether that transition can be accomplished democratically.

2 thoughts on “July election on again for Zimbabwe

  1. I have noted that your article is full of inconsistencies, half truths and outright misinformation. I am also sorry to say from the sense i got after reading the article, it shows the bias of the author towards a political party, MDC and that is what has been a thorny issue in our country Zimbabwe and that is what was stalking all the commotion that we experienced in this country since the formation of the MDC.The media is not reporting accurate events and the not so clever and gullible ones will accept it hook, line and sinker. Without talking much about that, as i have alluded earlier about your article is that it is just not saying the truth in some instances. The objections about the proclamation of the date of elections came only from Tsvangirai and other opposition parties especially The one led by Welshman Ncube and not including SADC. SADC clearly agreed with the court ruling of election to be held by the 31st of July of which President Mugabe complied and had to push the election day right to the end of the election date deadline in order to give everyone maximum time to prepare and put their houses in order. He was simply complying with the court ruling of which was a result of an application made by a Jealous Mawarire who is an individual who belongs to an unknown organisation that he refuse to divulge and who is obvously not sympathetic to Zanu PF.

    SADC, understood the ruling and its implications and as a face saving stunt asked the Minister Of Justice to go and make an application for the court to extend the election date by about 2 weeks but emphasised that the court decision is final and what the court is going to rule is final. The court having made its ruling already and it being the highest court of appeal and also having realised that nothing tangigle cannot be done in the extra 2 weeks which cannot be done in the intervening period leading to the election on July 31, upheld its ruling. Tsvangirai knew all that, but the bare fact is that he wanted to embarass President Mugabe as he had boasted before that he held the key to the election date and also was trying make a face save. Just because of that mere trivial things and trying to show some nonexistent political clout, the matter had to go to SADC with some record entourage to discuss trivia.

    You mentioned of Tsvangirai of having won by 51.3% in 2008 election and contradicted yourself by saying he could not manage to land the presidency because he got 47.9% against Mugabe’s 42.7%. I need to ask, ‘where is the 51.3% coming from?’ why did he go into a runoff then if he had that outright majority? Are you trying to say, he was denied the presidency or something happened? This is something that is puzzling and will be a talking point in the future of Zimbabwe politics of how some people craved for power to the extent of concocting figures, that is the MDC itself, their funders and some powers inorder to overturn the Government of Robert Mugabe.

    Thank You

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  2. Thanks Mernard – we obviously disagree on a few things, but I appreciate you putting your point of view. Taking the last point first, I can see that what I wrote wasn’t as clear as it could have been. What I meant was that the Movement for Democratic Change won 51.3% in the parliamentary election (42.9% for the Tsvangirai group plus 8.4% for the Mutambara group), but that Tsvangirai only won 47.9% in the first round of the presidential election. I don’t pretend to know what would have happened if Tsvangirai had stayed in for the second round.

    I’m interested in your claims that the MDC were the only ones pushing for a postponement of the election. I noted that the Voice of America report says Mugabe’s lawyer didn’t support the application when it came to a hearing, so that part you seem to agree with, but news outlets had consistently reported that (to quote the Al-Jazeera report) “Southern African leaders pressed Mugabe to delay the polls to allow more time for democratic reforms.” So I’d want to see some evidence that SADC wasn’t supporting a postponement.

    I wouldn’t dispute that Tsvangirai was mostly trying to embarrass Mugabe and that the two weeks delay wouldn’t really have made much difference to anything; that seems quite plausible to me. Let’s just hope that whatever happens on 31 July genuinely reflects the will of the Zimbabwean people.

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