Zanu-PF politburo bent on polls despite SADC concerns

2011-05-14 16:30

President Robert Mugabe’s Zanu-PF party has vowed to forge ahead with elections this year.

This is despite the misgivings of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) about whether any polls there could be free and fair.

At a lengthy and heated midweek meeting, the politburo, Zanu-PF’s supreme decision-making body, renewed calls for early elections.

Zanu-PF spokesperson Rugare Gumbo said: “There is no change on the elections issue. We will have elections this year.

Zimbabwe cannot be ruled by SADC. We are a sovereign country and SADC can only help us where it can.”

Zanu-PF’s latest about-turn on elections has increased perceptions among observers that Mugabe has lost his grip on the party – which “unanimously” endorsed the 87-year-old leader as its election candidate during its yearly congress in Mutare last year – and given way to hardliners to run party affairs.

Mugabe, whose political fortunes are seen to be weakening, is faced with deep divisions and infighting in Zanu-PF, a firm stance by SADC against his violent crackdowns on opposition political figures and persistent rumours of ill-health.

And now a diplomatic source has warned of “an open war” with him at the next SADC meeting, scheduled to start on Friday in Namibia.

Because of the likelihood of a clash, indications are that the Windhoek meeting may be postponed.

Said the diplomat: “The insistence [of some party members] on going it alone appears blissfully oblivious to the fact that it is solely through the SADC-sponsored Global Political Agreement that Mugabe has the legitimacy to be Zimbabwe’s head of state.

If Zanu-PF does it, it would simply be to their detriment.”

It is likely that should elections take place at Zanu-PF’s insistence, Mugabe would rely on support from security forces to ensure his victory.

A survey by Freedom House says support for Zanu-PF now stands at 17% (up from 12%), making the party less keen on delaying the poll. 

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