Alliance's insistence on reform before elections a blow to Mugabe power


THE HOPES of Zimbabwean president Robert Mugabe of extending his political career were dealt a blow last weekend by the decision of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) at a summit in Angola to insist agreed reforms were implemented before elections could take place.

Mr Mugabe (88) and his Zanu- PF party have been pushing for fresh polls before December to end the country’s stalled power-sharing arrangement, which came into existence in 2009 after disputed general elections in 2008.

Under the terms of the negotiated deal between Zanu-PF and the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), political reforms including the creation of a new constitution have to be introduced to ensure the next elections are free and fair. However, most of these agreed reforms have yet to be implemented in a way that satisfies the SADC and the MDC.

The latter accuses Zanu-PF, which has amended the constitution 19 times since 1980 to strengthen its hold on power, of dragging its feet in relation to reforms in order to continue to hold the advantage over rivals.

On Saturday, SADC’s chief mediator on Zimbabwe, South African president Jacob Zuma, urged the parties “to implement all the outstanding issues so a conducive environment is created for elections to take place”.

“The SADC troika on defence, politics and security co-operation yesterday said elections in Zimbabwe should be held within the next 12 months,” he added.

Zimbabwe’s Standard newspaper reported on Sunday that Zanu-PF planned a crisis meeting within two weeks to discuss what to do now that SADC had shot down its demands to have elections held this year.

“Our plans to have Mugabe as our party candidate are now in disarray,” the newspaper quoted a politburo source as saying. “With him turning 89 years next year, we are not sure how feasible it will be for him to stand if elections are held in 2013, given his advanced age and the health factor.”

Monthly visits by Mr Mugabe to see doctors in Singapore have stoked rumours his health is failing. He denies this is the case.

After the Angola summit, MDC secretary general Tendai Biti said the meeting was probably the most important since the powersharing deal came into existence because it tasked Mr Zuma with directly ensuring the outstanding reforms are implemented.

He said the talks sent a clear message that all agreed reforms should be implemented, meaning elections could only be held between June and October next year.