[DEBATE] : (Fwd) Deal takes shape in Zim?
pbond at mail.ngo.za
Mon Sep 10 10:35:36 BST 2007
Business Day (SA), 10 September
Zimbabwe parties make progress in electoral talks
Zimbabwe's ruling Zanu PF and the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) have agreed on several aspects of the contentious electoral process ahead of next year's critical elections. The parties have made significant progress in talks facilitated by President Thabo Mbeki, although there is still a long way to go before a final agreement, which could usher in a new constitutional dispensation and secure a political sea change. Zanu PF negotiators Patrick Chinamasa and Nicholas Goche and the MDC team of Welshman Ncube and Tendai Biti agreed on key aspects of the electoral process in meetings held on September 1 and 2 in Pretoria. South African Local Government Minister Sydney Mufamadi chaired the talks assisted by Director- General in the Presidency Reverend Frank Chikane and Mbeki's legal adviser Mojanku Gumbi. Ncube was assisted by Priscilla Misihairabwi, while Biti works with Lovemore Moyo. The two parties agreed President Robert Mugabe would no longer appoint 10 MPs in Zimbabwe's lower house, which will be expanded to 210 from 150 members. All MPs in the lower house would now be elected. This would level the playing field because Mugabe's party used to have a head start due to the appointed legislators. It was also agreed that the senate would be increased from 66 to 93 members. The initial proposal was to expand it to 84 members. However, Mugabe would still appoint 10 provincial governors, 10 chiefs and five representatives in the senate, one for Harare, one for Bulawayo and three others for special interest groups. This effectively maintains Zanu PF's advantage in the senate because all appointees normally vote with the ruling party.
Zanu PF and the MDC also agreed that the three forthcoming elections - presidential, parliamentary and municipal - would be run concurrently. Initially, Zanu PF wanted to hold municipal elections in January next year but the MDC did not want this as it argued it would be used to perfect gerrymandering and electoral rigging. The key issues were tabled before the decision-making Zanu PF politburo meeting on Wednesday last week. They were debated and adopted at the meeting. These aspects of the electoral process would be incorporated in the 18th Constitutional Amendment Bill, designed to ensure Mugabe's re-election and to manage his volatile succession battle, which would be introduced to parliament for debate during the course of this week. It is expected that the Bill will reach the final committee stage ready for passing into law by November 18. Mugabe is racing against time to ensure his plan succeeds well before the elections. The plan has the effect of undermining the talks if the Bill is passed before the negotiations are concluded, possibly by mid-October. Mbeki is under pressure to deliver on the talks this time around after failing several times to do so since he began his diplomacy on Zimbabwe in 2000. The agenda for the talks includes the constitution, electoral laws, security legislation, communication laws and the political climate.
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