Chombo indicates possible snap election

Chombo has let the cat out of the bag

Zimbabwe Standard - Comment: The Standard Editor

16 July 2017 in Editorial

Evidence is mounting to back fears that Zimbabwe could be headed for another disputed election as the ruling party looks determined to win at all costs, including playing dirty.

Home Affairs minister Ignatius Chombo let the cat out of the bag last week when he gave the clearest indication yet that President Robert Mugabe is entertaining the idea of calling a snap election with the hope of catching the opposition napping.

Zanu PF strongly believes the opposition is in sixes and sevens as demonstrated by the never ending negotiations to form a coalition against Mugabe, hence in their minds an early poll would deliver the killer blow.

The ruling party fears that if the opposition is given time to coalesce, Mugabe’s bid for yet another five-year term in office would be a mirage.

Chombo was quoted by state media claiming that Mugabe was free to call for elections any time next year and was not obliged to set the polls after June 2018 as many Zimbabweans believe would be the case.

Legal experts, have disputed Chombo’s take on Mugabe’s ability to call for early elections but history tells us that the president becomes single minded when it comes to power retention and nothing can stand in his way when he feels like it is the right time to pounce.

The memories of 2013, when he stampeded Zimbabweans into an election when everyone thought the country was refining its electoral systems to deliver an uncontested poll, are still fresh.

Mugabe could do the same in 2018. Two other events happened in the course of last week, raising the red flag about the credibility of next year’s polls.

The country’s biggest opposition party — MDC-T — held a demonstration against the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC), protesting against plans to unevenly distribute polling stations.

MDC-T strongly feels ZEC is trying to give Zanu PF a helping hand by concentrating polling centres in the ruling party’s perceived rural strongholds while starving the opposition’s urban bastion of the same.

Wednesday’s demonstration was a manifestation of wider disquiet over the way ZEC is preparing for what must be a watershed election.

Then there was the burning of an MDC-T vehicle in Harare the same night after the demonstration.

Chombo, who is also Zanu PF secretary for administration, was quick to claim that the arson was an inside job by the MDC-T because he “really believed” the party was seeking attention.

As Home Affairs minister, Chombo must be nonpartisan and professional. He cannot pass judgement on a criminal case before it is investigated by the police, which he superintends over.

It is now anyone’s guess what the outcome of the police investigations will be.

The Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) has been found wanting in previous elections because of lack of professionalism and bias towards Zanu PF.

Such statements will cast doubts about Zanu PF’s readiness to embrace democracy. Surely, the leopard does not change its spots.

There are many other tell-tale signs that Zanu PF will once again try to win the elections through hook or crook and the opposition must be warned accordingly.

It can no longer be business as usual for the opposition if it is still serious about bringing change to Zimbabwe.

The foul tactics that the ruling party is employing are not new and the opposition must have figured out how to force them to play a fair game by now.

Perpetual mourning about rigging of elections would certainly not provide a solution but only decisive action can force Zanu PF to play by the rules.

Just like Ian Smith and his racist Rhodesian government, Zanu PF and Robert Mugabe are not invincible.