Zimbabwean opposition leader Nelson Chamisa of the Citizens Coalition for Change has so far spurned dialogue.


THE growing convergence of minds on the need for dialogue by Zimbabwe’s major political parties — Zanu PF, the MDC and the Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) — could finally see the end of the country’s long history of disputed elections, analysts say.

Speaking to the Daily News yesterday, the independent analysts also said the ongoing engagements by the three parties ahead of the crunch 2023 polls were a step in the right direction as the dialogue would lead to peaceful and credible elections.

This comes after it emerged last week that political parties represented in Parliament had been engaging in low-key talks on electoral reforms in a bid to ensure dispute-free elections next year.

At the same time, and in a major boost to the engagements, authorities have said that they are open to proposals from the opposition as they mull changes to the country’s electoral laws ahead of the 2023 polls.

Amid these encouraging signs, University of Zimbabwe political science lecturer Eldred Masunungure, said yesterday that the apparent convergence on electoral reforms would help to calm political temperatures in the country as next year’s elections beckon.

“Theoretically, this consensus-driven tripartite electoral Amendment Bill is a great leap forward in terms of the framework for organising and managing perennially disputed polls.

“They point to the possibility of fairer, freer and more credible processes and election outcomes. But, as with most things, the devil is not just in the detail, but also in the implementation.

“The mandatory party registration move is a major development that is in consonance with regional and continental electoral practices, and it will weed out micky mouse entities masquerading as political parties,” Masunungure said.

“The mandatory Code of Conduct with sanctions for non-compliance is another positive move assuming that it won’t be abused or manipulated. Overall, the proposed Bill is a positive move forward,” he added.

Senior lecturer at South Africa’s Tshwane University of Technology, Ricky Mukonza, also said that the hope was that the recent developments were a harbinger of improvements to the country’s often toxic electoral environment.

“This is ideally the best way to tackle the country’s political crisis … but my reading of the political dynamics is that we are less likely to have reforms before elections.

“I don’t think Zanu PF is concerned with the credibility of elections. They are worried about power retention. If reforms bring credible elections but threaten the party’s hold on power, I don’t see them allowing such.

“What Zanu PF may give in to are piece-meal and non-fundamental reforms that do not threaten their control of processes,” Mukonza said.

Professor of World Politics at the University of London’s School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), Stephen Chan, also expressed doubts on the current talks which he said were, nevertheless, a welcome development.

“Actually, this is no more than tidying all loose ends and adding some small, if welcome, refinements.

“There is no radical change to anything. The agreed policy will not in itself change anything come the elections.

“It is a nice, cosmetic, and one that was agreed and released in time for the visit of the Commonwealth delegation that will report on Zimbabwe’s readmission,” Chan said.

All this comes after the government said it was open to proposals from the opposition as authorities mull changes to the current Electoral Act.

Speaking to the Daily News last week, Justice minister Ziyambi Ziyambi confirmed that authorities were receptive to the views of all political parties represented in Parliament on the crucial issue.

Should that happen, it would be a massive boost to the low-key dialogue that has been going on among the country’s major political parties, as exclusively reported by the Daily News last week.

The engagement has seen Zanu PF, the MDC, and CCC producing a draft electoral reforms Bill — in a bid to ensure dispute-free harmonised elections next year.

“I haven’t seen them (the recommendations from political parties), but we have a parliamentary process that considers such recommendations.

“However, the government is ready to hear views from other parties in Parliament. The Electoral Amendment Bill was sent for gazetting.

“We are open to debating and discussing the issue of reforms if they are reasonable, but we can’t speak on behalf of the opposition,” Ziyambi said.

This comes as the country’s major political parties with parliamentary representation  have been engaging in low-key talks, in a bid to ensure dispute-free elections in 2023.

According to a draft electoral reforms Bill seen by the Daily News last week, which is a product of the ongoing dialogue, the parties already appear to be broadly in agreement on a number of issues, including the need for the registration of political parties by the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec).

Opposition leader Douglas Mwonzora said political parties in Parliament had been meeting on a regular basis and had since broadly agreed on several desired reforms to ensure credible elections next year.

“There is low-key dialogue taking place among the three political parties. This dialogue is being spearheaded by the secretaries-general of the parties.

“They are in the main dealing with issues of electoral reforms and the issue of peace. The recent Kadoma meeting was one of the meetings, but there are a lot of other meetings that are taking place.

“There was, for example, a meeting in Kariba and there are also a number of other meetings going on,” Mwonzora told the Daily News then.

“The three political parties came up with a document and they are scheduled to meet Zec and the Ministry of Justice soon. This is low-key dialogue. The dialogue involving political leaders is yet to happen,” he added.

Zanu PF spokesperson, Christopher Mutsvangwa, referred all questions to the party’s chief whip, Pupurai Togarepi — who confirmed the meetings while under-playing them and declining to comment further.

“There is nothing unusual. Towards elections political parties meet and Zec has got the same platform for political parties to meet,” he said.

CCC’s Chalton Hwende, who is said to have been representing his party in the meetings, said: “I can’t comment on those issues”. – Daily News