Zimbabwe presidential run-off to be cancelled

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Zimbabwe’s presidential run-off poll might be scrapped this week in favour of a five-year transitional government.

It is understood that the move would see the incumbent leader Robert Mugabe’s Zanu-PF and Morgan Tsvangirai’s Movement for Democratic Change working together for the first time, with Mugabe as president and Tsvangirai as executive prime minister.

However, sources at the weekend said progress is being hampered by Mugabe and Tsvangirai jostling for the presidency and wanting to dictate terms related to the functioning of the government of national unity, sources claimed this week.

Zimbabwe abolished the position of prime minister in 1987 when Mugabe, then prime minister, took over as president from Reverend Canaan Banana, who had been ceremonial head of state since independence from Britain in 1980.

Officials in the MDC were tight-lipped on the exact details of the impending political settlement.

But Tsvangirai, who was represented by party secretary-general Tendai Biti at three meetings in Pretoria last week to broker the deal, denied plans to call off the elections.

“I am here campaigning and meeting our supporters in preparation for the election, which we will win despite these senseless arrests and acts of intimidation,” he said

He admitted that they met with Zanu PF for talks, “but that was not the direction of the negotiations.”

South Africa’s Local Government Minister Sydney Mufamadi chaired the talks, in which Mugabe was represented by his justice minister, Patrick Chinamasa, and his right-hand man, Emmerson Mnangagwa.

Thabo Mbeki is said to have been briefed by a team of retired generals he sent to Zimbabwe to assess the conditions ahead of the runoff.

“They told him it is impossible to have a free and fair run-off, that the violence has crippled any chance of a smooth election,” a top Zimbabwean politician said.

Mbeki has also briefed Zambian leader and SADC chairperson Levy Mwanawasa on the “worsening” conditions ahead of the polls, which have seen Tsvangirai arrested several times.

Zambia media reported at the weekend that Mwanawasa’s spokesperson, Mike Mulongoti, saying he had “no information” on the talks.

“I can neither confirm nor deny the talks. I can confirm the facilitator has had ongoing discussions with the Zimbabwean leadership, but as to what they discussed, I do not know,” he said.

But a reliable source said: “The deal is done and awaits Tsvangirai and Mugabe’s signatures. Both Mbeki and the SADC do not believe the conditions will produce a free and fair election.

“Mbeki has told Zanu-PF and the MDC that the best way to solve the impasse is to work together. It is now up to Tsvangirai and Mugabe to put aside their egos and put the country first.”

Another source said: “The sticking point at this stage is that Tsvangirai wants to be the president and to have the powers to decide who in Zanu-PF he should be working with. Mugabe, on the other hand, wants Tsvangirai to be prime minister and he wants to decide who in the MDC he should work with in the new government.”

The news of the impending Kenya-style political settlement comes barely two weeks before the June 27 polls and as Zimbabwe’s economy crashed to new lows, with funds sorely lacking to finance the run-off.

“There is not even a cent left in the kitty,” a senior Zimbabwean government official said on Friday. “There isn’t even money to print the ballot papers, let alone pay the polling agents.

“In that scenario, a negotiated political settlement makes sense and Zanu-PF is not hostile to that idea. It’s a matter of time,” said the official. “I do not see us going ahead with an election.”

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