“Zimbabwe’s sole television station, state-owned and tightly controlled by President Robert Mugabe, is targeting the private life of his arch rival Morgan Tsvangirai with ‘attack ads’ aimed at discrediting him before July 31 elections,” Reuters’ Cris Chinaka reports:
While there are no formal opinion polls, surveys conducted by Freedom House, a U.S. political think tank, and African research group Afro-Barometer give Mugabe a narrow lead.
Critics say Tsvangirai is woolly on policy and weak on principles, pointing to how readily he dropped opposition to Mugabe’s homophobia and seizure of white-owned farms, and how he took up the fight for media and security reform only weeks before the election.
His lieutenants argue Tsvangirai has taken the strategic view of pushing through a new constitution that balances power between the president and parliament, while parking other issues on the sidelines until the MDC comes to power.
“The MDC ran most of the local councils very badly,” said 50-year-old financial analyst Boniface Chirandu in the town of Chimanimani on the Mozambican border.
“That, coupled with issues over Tsvangirai’s private life, has persuaded me – and I’m sure others too – that the MDC cannot take our vote for granted.”
South African President Jacob Zuma, the chief regional mediator on Zimbabwe, today rebuked aides for making “unfortunate statements” on Harare’s lack of readiness to hold the elections, AP reports:
Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe, campaigning for the poll, criticized Lindiwe Zulu (left), Zuma’s international relations advisor, for questioning the southern African nation’s ability to hold credible polls…. After a chaotic early vote for police and the military officers who will be on duty on polling day, Mugabe described Zulu as “a stupid, idiotic street woman” — local parlance for a prostitute — raising the ire of women’s equality groups in South Africa and Zimbabwe.
The spat is likely to increase pro-democracy activists’ fears that the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and the African Union are likely to ignore evidence of electoral abuses and malpractice.
The Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum Director Abel Chikomo told SW Radio Africa that Zimbabweans should not expect much from the “elite club of leaders” in SADC and the AU.
“Once again the region is placing relationships before principles-the major root cause of corruption and mismanagement across Africa,” he said. “SADC’s vow that it will stand by the country to ensure the vote will be ‘credible enough’ clearly points out to the fact that the region is prepared to sacrifice principles in order to preserve warm historical relations with Zimbabwe.”
Elections are a necessary, but not sufficient condition for democracy, as recent polls in Kenya, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Cote d’Ivoire (and recent events in Egypt) demonstrate.
Days before this week’s pivotal elections in Zimbabwe, an important conference will convene civil society activists and political analysts, along with representatives from the U.S. government and NGOs, to focus on consolidating democracy in the fragile southern African state.
The National Endowment for Democracy, the Center for International Private Enterprise, Freedom House, the International Republican Institute, the Solidarity Center, the National Democratic Institute, and the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice & Human Rights cordially invite you to a conference entitled:
“Beyond the Elections in Zimbabwe” Tuesday, July 23, 2013 9 am-3.30 pm.
8:30 a.m. Registration and coffee
9:00 a.m. Welcome
Carl Gershman, President, National Endowment for Democracy
9:10 a.m. Introductory Remarks
U.S. Senator Jeff Flake, Arizona – Ranking Member, Subcommittee on African Affairs, Committee on Foreign Relations
9:30 a.m. Panel I: After the Elections: The Role of Civil Society
Youth: Glanis Changachirere (left), Founder, Institute for Young Women Development
Women: Jenni Williams, Founder, Women of Zimbabwe Arise
Private sector: Oswell Binha, Member of the National Executive Council, Zimbabwe National Chamber of Commerce
Media: Foster Dongozi, Secretary-General, Zimbabwe Union of Journalists
Unions: Japhet Moyo, General Secretary, Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions
Moderator: Imani Countess, Regional Program Director for Africa, Solidarity Center
11:00 a.m. Panel II: After the Elections: Building Democratic Institutions
Security Sector: Martin Rupiya, Executive Director, The African Public Policy & Research Institute (APPRI)
Rule of Law: Irene Petras, Executive Director, Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR)
Legislature: Jabusile Shumba, Executive Officer, Institute for a Democratic Alternative for Zimbabwe (IDAZIM)
Constitution: Dewa Mavhinga, Senior Researcher, Human Rights Watch
Moderator: Daniel W. Fisk, Vice President for Policy and Strategic Planning, International Republican Institute (IRI)
12:30 p.m. Break – Lunch
12:45 p.m. Keynote: American Policy and Zimbabwe
Shannon Smith, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Southern Africa
1:30 p.m. Screening of the Film “Girl Child: One Woman’s Quest to Redefine her Society”
Documentary created by the World Movement for Democracy
Q & A with Glanis Changachirere and Terence Chitapi
2:00 p.m. Panel III: Zimbabwe in the International Context
African trends: Almami Cyllah, Regional Director, Africa, International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES)
Regional bodies: Keith Jennings, Senior Associate and Regional Director for Southern and East Africa, National Democratic Institute
Diaspora: Norbert Mugwagwa, Zimbabwe Diaspora Network
Engaging Zimbabwe: Ibbo Mandaza, Director, SAPES Trust
Moderator: David J. Kramer, President, Freedom House
Click here to register
Venue: National Endowment for Democracy, 1025 F Street, NW, Suite 800, Washington, DC 20004.
A livestream of the conference will be available here.
Follow the conference on twitter at #BeyondZimElections
Please contact Elizabeth Marcotte at firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions regarding this event.