Ailing opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai reportedly asked President Emmerson Mnangagwa to postpone general elections by three years ostensibly because lack of electoral reforms was likely to undermine the credibility of the 2018 general poll result.
This comes as the veteran politician, picked to represent Zimbabwe’s opposition Alliance in the presidential election expected in the third quarter of this year — his fourth time as a presidential candidate — said on Monday it was time for the older generation to make way for younger leaders in the party.
Tsvangirai, 65, reportedly tabled the proposal to postpone elections to Mnangagwa, 75, when the new president and his deputy Constantino Chiwenga made an impromptu but welcome gesture to check on the social democrat, who has dominated Zimbabwean opposition politics since the formation of the MDC in 1999.
Mnangagwa ascended the throne last November after Robert Mugabe was forced to resign following the intervention of the military.
Tsvangirai was first diagnosed with cancer of the colon in June 2016 and has been undergoing treatment in neighbouring South Africa.
The MDC leader, who was Zimbabwe’s prime minister in an uneasy coalition government with the ousted Mugabe from 2009 until 2013, has been undergoing repeated cycles of treatment that have left him frail.
Mnangagwa’s spokesperson, George Charamba, told the Daily News yesterday that his boss was awaiting formal submissions from the opposition on the “legal issues” the MDC leader wanted addressed in relation to his proposal to delay the 2018 elections.
“Tsvangirai asked if we could delay elections, his reasons were couched on legalism. The president said there was need for a formal submission on the issues that needed attention so that they could be considered,” Charamba told the Daily News yesterday.
“What you need to understand is that the processes of communicating with government are different, you need formal legal submissions, then after the submissions are made, they are negotiated and we go to Parliament with an agreed position. What should be noted is that where there is consensus, reforms can be done in one day.
“Both the president and the vice presidents are riding high on the change that happened in November. If we are to go for elections, it would be a white-wash. It is the opposition that wants to buy time as it would be in their interest.
“And since their leader has hinted on handing over power, if it’s before elections, it means they would need a new leader and give him profile, so time is not on their side.
“However, there is also the aspect of electoral timelines that should be adhered to after proclamation of elections.”
The opposition has been demanding wide-ranging electoral reforms which they said should be enacted before going for the general elections, but according to Charamba, there has not been any formal submission to government in that regard.
Tsvangirai’s spokesperson Luke Tamborinyoka denied that his boss had tabled a proposal to postpone elections.
“That wasn’t raised (in the meeting), to the best of my knowledge. I think I issued a statement after that meeting with ED and that matter was never a subject for discussion,” Tamborinyoka told the Daily News.
This comes as different narratives have emerged over who exactly tabled the request to postpone the election timetable.
Former Cabinet minister Jonathan Moyo claimed in an interview on BBC’s HARDtalk with Zeinab Badawi aired yesterday that it was actually Mnangagwa who asked Tsvangirai for a postponement ostensibly because he was afraid of losing the election to the 65-year-old former prime minister, the loser in Zimbabwe’s last three controversial presidential polls and who almost ended Mugabe’s rule in the historic 2008 polls.
“We know that when Mnangagwa and Chiwenga went to … Tsvangirai’s house, they pretended that they were concerned with Tsvangirai’s health but we know they wanted to negotiate with him to postpone elections for at least three years,” Moyo told Badawi.
“They are afraid of elections; they don’t want to have free and fair elections, let alone credible elections.”
Zanu PF administration secretary and Home Affairs minister Obert Mpofu rubbished Moyo’s claims that Mnangagwa visited Tsvangirai in a bid to postpone the elections.
“On the contrary, the president wants the elections to be held as soon as possible without delay,” Mpofu told the Daily News.
“I don’t know where he (Moyo) is getting all this from, which is opposite from what is on the ground. As far as Zanu PF and my brief from the president is concerned, the president will soon be declaring the dates for the elections and Zanu PF is geared for that,” he said.
The Home Affairs minister also dismissed Moyo’s allegations that there was a “death warrant out for him” saying many of his “comrades” were alive and well in the country, albeit fighting for their freedom at the country’s courts.
“First of all, these will remain allegations but I am not aware of the death warrant which has been sent out for him from the president’s office and secondly, what he is alleging in terms of the president’s legitimacy is out of place. The president is a product of the Constitution of Zimbabwe which Constitution got him into power to be where he is, which power will be subjected to the electorate in the soon-to-be-held elections.”
Moyo said Mnangagwa’s regime was illegitimate and alleged there was an “international conspiracy” to globally endorse his regime that came to power through the military-engineered ouster of Mugabe.
He also rubbished claims by Mnangagwa that he was preparing to hold free and fair elections this year.
“He (Mnangagwa) can’t hold free and fair elections! He cannot, there has never been a single case of a government that has come to power (through the) bullet (holding credible elections),” he said.
“If anyone out there thinks that Zimbabweans are going to embrace the coup and entrench these leaders … right now the Cabinet … is led by the most feared people in the history of this country.”
He said the Constitution of Zimbabwe requires people to come into power via the ballot and the people of Zimbabwe will decide.
“If the world wants to be at odds with the popular will of the people of Zimbabwe, that is up to them.
“We can only be concerned about the Republic of Zimbabwe, the views of the people of Zimbabwe. The international conspiracy that supports a dictatorship that has come to power via the bullet is another story which will not be experienced by Zimbabweans for the first time,” he said.
Asked whether he would spend the rest of his life on the run, Moyo said he was not a fugitive because he left Zimbabwe legally and there was no warrant of arrest against him at the time.
“I ran away from a death warrant — an unlawful attack on my house,” Moyo said. He said the only charges against him were “political” and that these would not be of interest to Interpol, the global police agency.
Moyo, who is in a self-imposed exile, also said he will not discuss an immunity deal with the Mnangagwa government.
“When the devil offers you immunity, you would be a fool to enter what is called a Faustian bargain,” he told Badawi.
Moyo also claims his colleague Saviour Kasukuwere’s family and his hid for 15 minutes from a volley of gun attack from the defence forces’ special forces’ (SAS) snipers.
He alleged government was struggling to conjure up a criminal case against him, hence have allegedly turned to politically persecuting him. Zimbabwe’s anti-corruption officials have alleged he used money meant for the manpower development to fund personal interests and has to face corruption charges.
The anti-graft body has alleged Moyo, in cahoots with officials from his ministry, diverted $430 000 from the fund to finance personal activities.
He said he left Zimbabwe with the help of people “who to me are angels because they saved lives.”?“I left Zimbabwe when … Mugabe was still president of the country and I left with the assistance of these people legally. When I left Zimbabwe there was no warrant of arrest for me but there was a death warrant,” he said.
“We must have the rule of law. The army deployed itself, when the Constitution said only the president can deploy it. When you have people who have deployed themselves and taken over all the institutions of the State and government you don’t discuss immunity with them.”
Charamba told the Daily News that Moyo’s whereabouts where known and they will get him when the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission is ready to take the matter for prosecution.
“He has a case to answer on Zimdef (Zimbabwe Manpower Development Fund that was under Moyo’s ministry) and he cannot run away from that, we will get him,” Charamba said, adding that Moyo’s claims were aimed at soliciting for sympathy.