Mugabe : The beggar’s choice

Reading time 3 min.

Zimbabwe’s losing presidential candidate, Robert Mugabe, has set tough
conditions before the election runoff can take place, insisting that the MDC first call on the West to lift targeted sanctions.

from our correspondent in Harare

Mugabe claims the sanctions contributed to his stunning electoral loss.

Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa says the sanctions had spawned economic hardships and had crystallized public anger against Mugabe.

Chinamasa, the former minister of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs, told a press briefing at his offices Sunday that the runoff would not be conducted until the MDC travelled to Western capitals on a mission to call off the sanctions.

These conditions seemed actuated by a set of conditions tabled by winning presidential candidate Morgan Tsvangirai before he can participate in the runoff.

Tsvangirai has demanded that the runoff takes place within two weeks, or not later than May 23.

Chinamasa said this was impossible and irrelevant, adding that the runoff would be held according to the laws of the country and not according to what Tsvangirai wanted.

The MDC leader is also demanding the cessation of violence, unfettered access for international observers, a SADC peacekeeping force on the ground, the re-constitution of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) and a free press, both local and international.

He told reporters that Mugabe and Zanu-PF rejected these conditions, and said the MDC had to first call off the sanctions, which he claimed had tilted the political playing field in favour of the MDC. “The MDC should first lift these sanctions,” said Chinamasa.

“We want a level playing field. These sanctions assisted the MDC to garner support. As you are aware, sanctions are one factor which assisted the MDC to score a victory. These sanctions have caused misery to our people and the MDC has exploited those hardships of the people.”

Chinamasa also launched an all-out attack on SADC chairman Levy Mwanawasa, whom he accused of dismally failing to criticise western enforced sanctions on the country’s leadership.

“We are appalled by the silence from the SADC chairman, who has dismally failed to implement SADC resolutions,” he said.

A range of targeted sanctions were imposed about seven years ago on Mugabe and his lieutenants in an attempt to nudge them towards political reforms. Mugabe and Zanu-PF have often portrayed the MDC as a puppet of the West, a charge the former opposition party denies.

The MDC says it does not have powers to call on the United States and the European Union to lift the sanctions that Mugabe claims have contributed to Zimbabwe’s economic woes.

He suggested that only after the lifting of the sanctions could the runoff
occur. This sentiment seemed to buttress statements by the electoral commission that it was virtually impossible to hold the runoff vote in the next two weeks and that the run-off could even take up to year because the electoral management body was broke.

Tsvangirai was expected in Zimbabwe Monday since leaving the country for regional forays on May 10, to effect what the MDC has described as a “final knock-out”.

Tsvangirai has stated that he was the clear winner of the presidential poll with 50.3 percent and there was no need for a run-off. But after a five-week delay ZEC announced that Tsvangirai had polled only 47 percent, which is shy of the 50 percent threshold required for him to be declared President.

Zimbabwe is in the grip of a severe economic recession that has manifested itself in hyperinflation, a rapidly contracting Gross Domestic Product and severe shortages of every essential commodity, including cash.

Political analysts say a truly democratic presidential election run off was a prerequisite to any plans to resuscitate Zimbabwe’s comatose economy, or a government of national unity between the two political gladiators.

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