Thursday, January 17, 2008

Zimbabwe Update: Mbeki Still Confident; ZANU-PF Primaries Start Next Week; Parties Must Come Together

Zim talks: Mbeki still confident

Herald Reporters

SOUTH AFRICAN President Thabo Mbeki has once again expressed confidence that the ongoing dialogue that he is facilitating between Zanu-PF and the two MDC factions will soon yield positive results.

Speaking to reporters after holding separate meetings with President Mugabe at State House and leaders of the two MDC formations at the residence of the South African ambassador yesterday evening, the South African leader said the talks were a work-in-progress and expectations were high that a definitive outcome would soon be realised.

"As everybody knows, we have been acting on behalf of Sadc to facilitate dialogue between the Government and the opposition and I have come here to give a report to the President on the dialogue.

"We have given that report and listened to the views of both sides and we shall continue with this process.

"Of course, the negotiators have been reporting to their principals, but I came to give an update on progress to the leaders.

"This is a work-in-progress and I must say that there has been very good progress. There is definitely a lot of light."

President Mbeki also commended the Zimbabwean leadership for its dedication to the dialogue that Sadc mandated him to facilitate after the extraordinary summit of the regional body in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, last year.

"You cannot doubt the level of commitment of the Zimbabwe leadership to ensuring that the country’s problems are solved," he said.

He, however, refused to set a deadline for the process even though the landmark harmonised elections were constitutionally set to be staged two months from now.

"Everyone is very conscious of the fact that elections are coming in March, but they are also conscious of the tasks that have to be accomplished.

"As facilitators, we felt that we should come ourselves and give a briefing and naturally we discussed some of the impediments."

This was probably in reference to demands from the opposition that a new constitution be put in place and elections be postponed to a later date, among other issues.

The Government has insisted that elections will be held in March as constitutionally required and at the Zanu-PF Extraordinary Congress in Harare last December, President Mugabe made it clear that postponement was out of the question as all parties involved had been aware of the poll date for over a year.

It is believed that MDC has been agitating for the deferment to buy time as they are not prepared to contest the joint presidential, parliamentary and local government elections despite co-sponsoring Constitutional Amendment (Number 18) Act which paved the way for the March polls.

Furthermore, there have been strong indications that the opposition’s foreign backers devised this agenda and MDC is merely doing the bidding of its Western principals.

This follows reports from the last Commonwealth meeting in Uganda that British Prime Minister Gordon Brown tried in vain to impress on President Mbeki, Ugandan leader Yoweri Museveni and Zambian Vice President Rupiya Banda to exhort Harare to delay elections.

After arriving yesterday mid-morning abode a South African Airforce plane, the South African leader was welcomed at the Harare International Airport by President Mugabe, Vice President Joice Mujuru, Cabinet ministers and South African Ambassador to Zimbabwe Professor Mlungisi Makhalima.

This is the second time in three months that President Mbeki has visited Zimbabwe.

His last visit was in November last year en route to the Commonwealth Summit in Uganda, to brief both President Mugabe and MDC leaders on the progress of the talks.

At the time, both parties expressed satisfaction with progress in the talks.

Yesterday, President Mbeki had closed-door talks with his Zimbabwean counterpart at State House for over four hours.

He then had a two-hour meeting with leaders of the two MDC factions, Professor Arthur Mutambara and Mr Morgan Tsvangirai at the residence of the South African Ambassador to Zimbabwe before returning to State House for more talks with the President.

President Mbeki flew back to South Africa last night.

However, spokesmen for both MDC formations as well as Zanu-PF representatives to the talks last night refused to comment on yesterday’s meetings.

Zanu-PF primaries start next week: Manyika

By Sydney Kawadza

PRIMARY elections to choose Zanu-PF candidates for the forthcoming harmonised elections start next week, the ruling party’s national political commissar, Cde Elliot Manyika, has said.

Speaking at the joint Zanu-PF women’s and youth leagues’ extraordinary national assembly meeting in Harare yesterday, Cde Manyika said party candidates should submit their curricula vitae on Monday.

The ruling party, he said, will start with primaries for council candidates. These would be followed by the election of the House of Assembly and Senate candidates within the next seven days.

"Members interested in contesting the primary elections should submit their CVs by Monday next week when the national election directorate will meet to consider their candidature," he said.

Cde Manyika said interested members should submit their CVs to their district and provincial leadership.

"The national election directorate will meet on Monday to consider the prospective candidates for the primary elections. This will immediately be followed by primary elections," he said.

The ruling party will choose its candidates using a two-tier system under which some candidates would be chosen by consensus while a secret ballot would be held in cases where there were two or more candidates.

President Mugabe will be the party’s presidential candidate after he was unanimously endorsed at the December 11-14 Extraordinary Congress last year.

Cde Manyika said over the years, the party leadership had come to realise that some aspiring councillors and legislators were using money to buy votes hence the need for a secret ballot.

"We are aware that there are some vote buyers and we are saying no to that system where people stand behind their candidates — zvekuberekana kumusana hakuchina. So the best way is for people to elect candidates of their choice through a secret ballot," he said.

Cde Manyika also noted that some party supporters often stayed away from the polls in protest against vote buyers.

He reiterated that the ruling party would not tolerate the imposition of candidates, adding the provinces were free to consider any special cases for waivers for members to represent the party in the elections.

Cde Manyika urged members who believed they had what it takes to represent the party in the elections to contest in the primaries.

"The party allows self-nomination and as long as you believe that you qualify to represent the party, you are free to submit your CV for consideration as long as you qualify within the confines of our constitution," he said.

Members who have served in the party’s district structures and above for five years or more will be eligible for nomination in the council elections.

Candidates for parliamentary and senatorial elections should have served the party for five years or more at provincial level, Central Committee, National Consultative Assembly or the Politburo.

A special waiver would be considered at provincial level for members in the diplomatic service and those in the uniformed forces.

He said although the party structures would meet to agree on a campaign strategy, members should go out and campaign so that the party wins and continue with its programmes to economically empower the people.

Meanwhile, the women and youth leagues have called on the party leadership to do away with waivers as they target to garner as much as 60 percent of the contested seats.

In its resolutions for the March 2008 election, the Youth League national executive committee agreed that where a woman candidate was standing for election no youth should contest the same constituency and vice versa.

"Much as women are given a quota, the same should be accorded to the youths who intend to stand such that the combined percentage of youth and women is not less than 60 percent," they said.

The two wings also indicated that since they would not contest sitting candidates they, in turn. expected to be given free reign in the 90 seats that are up for grabs.

Both the House of Assembly and Senate will have more legislators after the unanimous passing of the Constitutional Amendment Bill (No. 18) last year by both Zanu-PF and the two factions of the opposition MDC. The Bill is now law after President Mugabe assented to it.

The women’s and youth wings also resolved that where a youth and a woman already qualified to stand as candidates, the waiver should be dropped in such constituencies.

"Against this background, waivers should only apply where the party fails to identify a qualified and suitable candidate from its ranks as prescribed," the wings added.

The women and youth wings also said the five-year service requirement should strictly be adhered to.

They added that in the interest of the party, youths and women should select very competent and strong characters that are marketable and prepared to defend the party and its leader, President Mugabe.

They urged the party leadership to consider declared youth and women constituencies to be their quota as prescribed, adding that the national election directorate should respect this plea and be biased towards this.

Political parties must co-exist

EDITOR — As the Kenyan political crisis drags on, a sinister picture is beginning to emerge.

Speaking on BBC’s HARDtalk programme, Raila Odinga, the opposition leader, claimed that he enjoyed support from 43 tribes.

If Kenya has 44 tribes, then it follows that one tribe is backing the government hence the killing of members of that tribe.

I thought that was a dangerous statement from a political leader who should know better not to fan tribal animosities at a time of grave tension in his country.

The weakness of the Kenyan constitution was exposed when parliament met to choose a speaker.

The opposition, which has a majority of MPs, elected their choice of speaker but they cannot form a government.

In France, although the country has an executive president, the party with the majority in parliament forms the government even if it loses the presidential election.

Many African countries will have the same problem if the opposition wins a majority of MPs while the president’s party loses a majority in parliament.

In the USA, it does not matter if the president loses a majority in Congress, he will still form a governmnet because there is no vote of confidence allowed against the government.

Odinga said if his party wins a vote of confidence against the government, then parliament would be dissolved according to the constitution.

But it was the opposition that campaigned against the new constitution which had a provision for a prime minister who could have been appointed to form the government if he enjoys the confidence of parliament.

In this case, Odinga would have become the prime minister.

Of course, the mess caused by the commission running the elections is unforgivable. What then is the way forward?

Political parties in Africa must learn to co-exist and share power like those in France and the USA.

Albert Nhamoyebonde.

No comments: