By Tererai Karimakwenda
14 January, 2013
The United Nations’ World Tourism Conference is due at Victoria Falls in August. It has now become a key factor in determining a date for elections, as there will be a global spotlight on the country in the period leading up to the conference.
Many voices are beginning to speak out on a date for the elections, with the majority appearing to want them held before the conference.
Their major argument is that elections have always brought violence from ZANU PF and having a global spotlight on Zimbabwe in the lead up to the conference would help expose any abuses perpetrated ahead of the elections.
This view was expressed in online comments by the MDC-T legislator Theresa Makone, the editor of the Standard newspaper Nevanji Madanhire and political analyst Clifford Mashiri. They all advocated holding elections before the conference for the same reason, global attention on Zimbabwe.
Speaking on SW Radio Africa’s Behind the Headlines program, Mashiri said if elections are held after the tourism conference, violence would be unleashed by ZANU PF because the delegates, who would be observers, would be gone.
“Civic society should start now making noises about holding elections before the conference. ZANU PF has been raiding civic organisations like Zimrights trying to intimidate, scare and make them silent so that they don’t speak on behalf of ordinary Zimbabweans about these elections,” Mashiri explained.
Mashiri added that the period leading up to the conference would be monitored by the UN and other stakeholders, including the African Union, SADC and European Union, whose officials would have an opportunity to assess the political climate.
Germany recently threatened to pull out of the conference if their investments are not protected, following the seizure of several farms that were covered by Bilateral Investment and Property Protection Agreements (BIPPAs).
Mashiri said holding the elections after the conference presents a different set of problems, as that scenario would give ZANU PF the opportunity to do what they know best; bully their way through another election and deny the electorate a fair chance to decide who should govern them.
He added that the usual violence that has always preceded and followed elections would defeat the whole purpose of the conference, which is to present Zimbabwe as an attractive destination for tourists and potential business investors.