PRESIDENT Robert Mugabe is campaigning hard to ensure his demand for an early election is endorsed at Zanu PF’s annual people’s conference next month amid growing internal resistance from MPs and senior party officials to having polls mid-next year.Mugabe has for several months been calling on his party to end factionalism and to prepare for elections next year to stop Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and his MDC-T from grabbing power.
However, MPs and senior party officials say Zanu PF was not ready for an early election because the party structures were shambolic.
They say early elections would benefit Tsvangirai and the MDC-T in some ways. MPs and other party officials are also not “psyched-up” for the elections for their own personal and political reasons.
MPs interviewed this week said there was no reason to go for elections next year because that would disrupt national recovery and drain their resources and themselves physically after the gruelling experience of 2008.
The legislators also said the country has not recovered from the political violence which shook the country in June 2008 when Mugabe launched a campaign of violence and intimidation to stop Tsvangirai from seizing power. Tsvangirai had defeated Mugabe in the first round of polling, putting one foot into State House.
Zanu PF MPs and officials interviewed said they preferred to stretch the government of national unity to 2013 to allow for economic stability and national healing.
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“Almost everyone in the party, except the president, from MPs to politburo members, central committee members and ordinary parry cadres are opposed to elections next year,” a senior party official said. “People don’t see the need to rush to elections before the country recovers from political violence and all that trauma. National healing is still in progress and people want peace and stability. The economy is still trying to recover, so what’s the rush?”
If Mugabe insists on elections in 2011, legislators said they want to be compensated for the two years that would have been cut short and a guarantee that they would not have primary elections in their parties. MPs from all the three parties in parliament, Zanu PF, MDC-T and MDC-M, do not want early elections.
However, Zanu PF spokesperson Rugare Gumbo told Zimbabwe Independent yesterday that endorsement for an early election would be done at the conference next month despite the grumblings of MPs and certain officials.
“As far as I know so far, it is not on the agenda but it is likely to come as one of the resolutions at the conference,” he said.
Asked how the party can debate the matter when it is not on the agenda, Gumbo said: “It doesn’t have to be on the agenda. It is going to be one of those things that will be discussed and endorsed by the conference.
“It’s one of the things that we will talk about but our main focus is going to be how we are going to turn around the economy and create a conducive environment that attracts investment and come up with policies and programmes that benefit our people.”
But one Zanu PF official warned: “It’s not about us confronting Mugabe at the conference over elections, it’s about the strategic value and wisdom of going to polls when we are not ready. We did that in 2008 and we paid a heavy price. We must learn from past mistakes.”
Mugabe and Tsvangirai, who seem to be daring each other on over elections, are facing resistance within their parties on the issue. Even MDC-T MPs and officials are opposed to early elections.
One MDC-T MP said: “What Mugabe and Tsvangirai are doing is like boys herding cattle who build mounds of sand and call them each mother’s breast before daring one another to a fight through kicking those heaps. It’s a common but childish thing in our societies among growing up boys.”
Mugabe and Tsvangirai have been daring each other to a third electoral contest. The two have locked horns two times, in 2002 and 2008, since the MDC was formed in 1999. Mugabe said a month ago elections would be held mid next year as the inclusive government cannot be extended by more than six months after its expiry in February 2011.
He said he could not stomach a prolonged extension of the shaky unity government, accusing Tsvangirai of being a sellout.
Mugabe ordered Biti a few months ago to budget $200 million for a referendum and elections although the issue has yet to be officially dealt with in ministerial votes ahead of the national budget.
A visibly angry Mugabe told a Zanu youth league meeting last month that: “The constitution-making process has to be accelerated because the life of this creature (inclusive government) is only two years. It started in February last year and in February next year it must end. It would have lived its full life and it will not be extended by more than six months or a year.”
However, this did not go down well with some senior party officials and legislators who would have preferred to have elections in 2013.
Goromonzi North MP Paddy Zhanda of Zanu PF told Biti that: “If elections are called for next year, we will demand compensation on lost and potential revenue for the two-and-a-half years remaining on our terms.”
If elections are held next year, it will be the second time that terms for legislators would have been cut. In 2008 their terms were cut by two years.
However, Gumbo pointed out that those opposed were just blowing hot air because none of them would dare oppose Mugabe face-to-face on the elections or any other issue. “Haa, don’t take those people seriously. None of them will say a word in protest in front of the president. Do you see the president going back on his word – unless you don’t know him? He is serious and determined to have elections next year,” he said scoffing at the idea that some Zanu PF officials would oppose the call at the conference.
“Yes we have been talking about it but not in a formal manner. Are you happy with the squabbling in cabinet and in the senate? I am sure you have also heard that provinces have endorsed the president as the candidate for next year’s elections,” said Gumbo.
Zanu PF national commissar Webster Shamu told an extra-ordinary politburo meeting two weeks ago that party structures needed to be revamped. He said the structures were shambolic nationwide, raising fears that the party would perform dismally during next year’s elections as it did in 2008.