Ruth Weiss: Zimbabwe before the elections (11)

Column 11

The final steps for parliamentary approval of the constitutional proposals were taken this week. By and large the constitutional proposals have met with voter apathy due to the long and bickering drawn-out process. The National Constitutional Assembly (NCA) has called for a "no" vote, while Chiefs have protested at limitation of their powers.(1) Parliamentary blessing clears the way towards a referendum and elections, which President Robert Mugabe may announce simultaneously.(2)

Zimbabwe is not yet at peace. Renewed arguments over media and security reforms as well as repeal of repressive laws have broken out between President Robert Mugabe's Zanu-PF and the MDC factions, led by Morgan Tsvangirai and Welshman Ncube respectively. Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa has ruled out further reforms, whereas MDC-T declared the issues needed to be addressed before the referendum.(3)

The constitutional proposals do indeed include clauses guaranteeing press freedom and free expression of opinion. However, Nhlanhla Ngwenya, Zimbabwe Director of the Media Institute of Southern Africa pointed out, the creation of a Media Commission with the right to discipline journalists, negates this provision. An atmosphere is needed, in which journalists can work without fear of disciplinary action.(4)

Security sector reforms is resisted by Zanu-PF officials, including Defence Minister Emmerson Mnangagwa and Administrative Secretary Didymus Mutasa, who support army and police involvement in politics because, as the latter declared, they were part of Zanu-PF due to their past as "war veterans".(5) Mutasa, also MP for Headlands, Manicaland, vowed that no MDC meetings would take place in his constituency. On February 7th, nine MDC-T officials including the MDC candidate in Headlands, were duly arrested for holding an indoor meeting.(6)

Police bias was illustrated with Police Commissioner Augustine Chihuri campaigning for the police force to vote Zanu.PF. Last December Chihuri sent a letter to police stations, advising officers to register to be ready for elections. Addressing wives of high-ranking officers in January, he urged them to show their patriotism by supporting Mugabe's party, while other top officials called on police stations recently with the same message.(7) The Joint Monitoring and Implementation Committee (Jomic) reported that Mashonaland Central violence was on the increase.(8). In Bulawayo police raided the offices of the National Youth Development Trust, with Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights information officer Kumburai Mafunda claiming civil society was under siege.(9)

Fears of vote manipulation were raised by a simulated election exercise, in which armed forces members were bussed to mobile registration offices, with the men instructed to vote Zanu-PF.(10)

Zanu-PF is cock-a-hoop over its indigenization programme is a certain vote winner, despite setbacks, such as a court case with RioZim over a seized goldmine. The party also banks on a weakened MDC-T, with some loss of Morgan Tsvangirai's popularity due to scandals in his private life and the parties' inability to deliver all election promises.(11)

In the ongoing free and fair election debate the US Ambassador David Bruce Wharton expressed his scepticism, in view of the widespread troop deployment and intimidation of civil rights campaigner. Confusion continues to exist with regard to dual citizenship, with parties interpreting the new rules differently.(12)

The Daily News fears Mugabe may delay in announcing the election date, in order to forestall an early arrival of observers. The EU is ready to send a team if invited. However, Zanu-PF opposes international observers.(13)

It has been a mixed week for the Mugabes: their youngest son was allegedly expelled from a Catholic school, described as a voluntary withdrawal, with the boy now being educated at home.(14) Mrs. Grace Mugabe, whose acquisition of 1 600 ha. of Mazoe Estate engendered some criticism, opened a Mazowe school to gushing praise by Mashonaland Central Governor, who vowed he would happily offer her more land. The veteran journalist Peta Thornycroft wrote that Mrs. Mugabe had also established what she called an orphanage in Mazowe on land taken in 2003. Since then she acquired a productive Mazowe dairy and at least five more farms. Robert Mugabe bought a farm in 2000, taking a further four adjoining farms after 2003. The farms were run with state resources.(15). News 24 reported that fundraisers for Mugabe's birthday bash hope to raise US$600 000.

In Zimbabwe miracles never cease. Two prophets who claim that money materialised miraculously in their follower's pockets, appeared at a press conference with Central Bank Governor Gideon Gono, who warned that miracle money had to bear the usual serial numbers.(16)

  1. AP 7.2, Nation 7.2, Mail and Guardian 1.2, SW Radio Africa 5.2, VOA Zim.5.2
  2. SW Radio Africa 7.2
  3. Zim. Independent 1.2, Daily News 3.2
  4. Zim. Independent 1.2
  5. VOA Zimbabwe 1.2
  6. SWRadio Africa 7.2
  7. Zim Independent 1.2, Standard 3.2
  8. Zimbabwe Mail 5.2
  9. SW Radio Africa 6,2
  10. SW Radio Africa 1.2
  11. Reuters 4.2, SW Radio Africa 5.2, Reuters 5.2
  12. Washington Times 3.2, SW Radio Africa 5.2
  13. Daily News 5.2
  14. Herald 1.2
  15. Africa Review1.2, Independent Foreign Service 4.2
  16. SW Radio Africa 6.2

Letzte Änderung: Friday, 15-Feb-2013 14:56:43 CET
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1.2.2013 Ruth Weiss: Zimbabwe vor der Wahl (10)