Zimbabwe: Pressure For Unity Government

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[International: Zimbabwe]

Zambia’s founding president and Pan-Africanist Dr.  Kenneth Kaunda is calling for a Kenyan-style unity government to end the political and economic crisis in neighboring Zimbabwe.

Kaunda said a unity government in Zimbabwe led by President Robert Mugabe with opposition chief Morgan Tsvangirai holding a new prime ministerial post would help bring peace and stability in this southern African country in which he once played a key role in helping it win independence.

Kaunda was a member of the “Frontline States”; nationalist leaders that included the late Julius Nyerere of Tanzania.  Kaunda,  a highly respected statesman and with close links to Mugabe dating back to the days of Zimbabwe’s war of independence, said there was a need to "rethink" the June 27 presidential run-off between the two,  saying it would not bring peace to country, plagued by political and economic crises for years.
"We have in Zimbabwe a situation which will not be helped by any type of outcome of the June 27 repeat elections," Kaunda said. Both current President Robert Mugabe and opposition leader Tsvangirai fell short of gaining a straight majority in the March 29 poll. The two rivals will lock horns in an election run-off set for 27 June.

Some Zimbabweans, including political analysts, feel strongly that the outcome of the June 27 poll will not end the crisis in the country; supporters of a negotiated settlement believe it will help heal the deep rift between the country’s two major political groupings –Zanu PF and MDC.

In Kenya, following disputed elections and violence that caused the death of more than 1,000 people, opposition leader Raila Odinga reached a power-sharing deal with President Mwai Kibaki.

After protracted negotiations, Odinga now shares executive roles with President Kibaki in an arrangement championed by the international community. “The run-off will not solve anything,” says Rogers Mabuza-Moyo who makes bricks in Mabvuku, a poor suburb in the eastern part of Harare. “President Mugabe and Tsvangirai don’t see eye to eye, but they should settle their differences in the interest of the country. Political bickering by our two leaders will make the poor to suffer more.”

Paul Jonga, a vendor in the streets of Harare, believes strongly that a negotiated settlement is the way to go. “If Tsvangirai wins, I don’t see Mugabe and his supporters yielding in. On the other hand, if Mugabe wins sanctions will not be lifted and people will suffer more. So I think it is wise for the United Nations and the international community to support a negotiated settlement rather than waste time by going into these elections,” he says.

Zanu PF has a legacy to protect –the revolution that brought freedom to Zimbabwe as well as land –a critical asset for black empowerment while MDC says it wants to bring to an end to corruption, poor service delivery, unemployment and poor food production.

Former finance minister Simba Makoni who broke ranks with Zanu-PF and later lost in the in the first round of the presidential election on March 29, said the run-off should be delayed until conditions improve for fair elections to take place.  “Conditions have been created in the country as a whole, but particularly in the rural areas,  where there is no prospect of any semblance of a free and fair election," Makoni said.  "Even if by the remotest of chances we could have an election whose results would resemble the will of the people,  it would still not resolve the crisis.  Neither of the two leaders— would be able to form an effective government if they won the run-off."
He called for a government of national unity "that involves all key players so that we can take the country forward and redeem people from the hell on earth that they are in at the moment."

Tendai  Biti, secretary-general of the Movement for Democratic Change agreed that;  "If this run-off takes place, there will be no winner – despite whatever result is announced."

Violence in the build-up to the June 27 poll has claimed the lives of supporters from both Zanu PF and the MDC.  Churches,  regional governments and the United Nations have condemned the violence.  MDC claims that 65 of its supporters have been killed in the post March 29 poll period.

Zanu PF has awakened and its election machinery is working round the clock mobilizing supporters in its strongholds in most of the country’s provinces.  It has polished up its election campaign messages and is working to reclaim its top spot.

Political space for the opposition MDC has shrunk, with the party alleging that it is being barred from organizing rallies, its leaders harassed and detained while supporters were being killed, harassed and victimized.
MDC still enjoys positive coverage from the private media, dozens of on-line newspapers and the mainstream international media.  The party claims it has become virtually impossible to penetrate rural areas fearing war veterans and other Zanu-PF supporters.

MDC also bemoans the lack of coverage by the national broadcaster,  the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Holdings (ZBH) and the state newspapers.

Tsiko is The Black Star News' Southern Africa correspondent based in Harare.

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