By Alex Bell
7 March 2013
The South African team in charge of facilitating Zimbabwe’s political process is being urged to heed warnings from officials in the unity government that the country is not yet ready for elections.
This warning was made by Finance Minister Tendai Biti in his capacity as the chief negotiator of the MDC-T, during a meeting with the South African facilitation team on Tuesday. President Jacob Zuma’s international relations advisors Lindiwe Zulu and Charles Nqakula also met separately with negotiators from ZANU PF and the MDC led by Welshman Ncube.
Biti was quoted by the NewsDay newspaper as saying that Zuma’s team “wanted to know the state of our readiness on the referendum and elections.” Biti reportedly said they told the South Africans that although the country was ready for the referendum, the time was not right for fresh elections.
“We pointed out that the security situation was deteriorating, giving the death of Christpowers Maisiri as an example,” Biti said. 12 year old Christpowers died almost two weeks ago in a suspected arson attack in Headlands. It is widely suspected that he was a victim of a politically motivated attack.
SW Radio Africa was unable to get hold of Biti directly or members of Zuma’s facilitation team, who travelled back to Johannesburg on Thursday afternoon.
But members of civil society said Biti’s warnings must be taken seriously. Thabani Nyoni, the spokesperson of the Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition, said that Biti’s warnings echo the concerns of civic groups across the country.
“We have always insisted that Zimbabwe is not ready for elections,” Nyoni told SW Radio Africa.
He explained that chief among a host of reasons why the country is not ready, is the lack of key reforms dictated by the Global Political Agreement (GPA). He said this has left the country in a fragile state, with increasing levels of violence, persecution of civil society, and a “generally non-conducive environment for a credible vote.”
Phillip Pasirayi, the head of the Centre for Community Development in Zimbabwe, agreed that the failure of the unity government to fully implement the GPA was preventing any chance of a credible election.
“We have repeatedly raised concerns about the political environment, which is characterised by harassment and persecution. With such an environment it will be almost impossible to hold a credible election,” Pasirayi said.
He added that as the guarantors of the GPA, SADC and Zuma “need to play a more active and intervention role in Zimbabwe.”
“There is clear evidence that some players in the GPA are trying to derail whatever progress there has been and derail an election. SADC is supposed to play a more assertive role now,” Pasirayi said.
Meanwhile, despite his warnings to the South African team, Biti will be addressing a meeting in that country this weekend to encourage Zimbabweans to return home and vote.
Biti will be in South Africa to launch the “Come Home and Vote Campaign,” and will address a rally on Saturday the 9th March.