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Politics

Deve: 'Mugabe is fairly confident'

Until elections are held in Zimbabwe, at an as yet unspecified date, President Robert Mugabe will remain the country's sole law-making authority.

According to Zimbabwe's Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa, the automatic dissolution of parliament means 89-year-old President Robert Mugabe can now rule by decree until the poll is held. There is still no clear date as to when it will take place.

DW: What could be the reason behind this early dissolution of parliament ?

Thomas Deve: There is a very difficult situation that arose from the government of national unity - where the president should have consulted the Prime Minister who is in the other political party the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) - with respect to setting the election date. But then another citizen took President Robert Mugabe to court and said his term of office was almost coming to an end and therefore he should carry out elections within the next thirty days so the president was tied down to a judgement. But when he went to the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) summit on Zimbabwe, he was advised to change the elections date by a delay of two weeks. So that means that the president will run the country by decree. But we saw this coming because there was no consensus in the government of national unity as to what was the ideal environment for us to undertake elections. But with SADC recommendations, elections can now take place any time towards the end of July and up to about September.

Does the dissolution give Mugabe an advantage over his main rival Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai?

He has a major advantage because it means he can take decisions without consulting many people and I think the pattern was very clear in the last session when we had a government of national unity. He was the senior partner by virtue of being the executive authority and therefore the Prime Minister was just like a junior partner. So this time he basically controls the police, security service, and media and to a larger extent the state is at his disposal and will in many respects back his political party ZANU-PF.

And does the dissolution mean that the prime minister has been stripped of his powers as well?

Well, he is not affected because he is not a parliamentarian but what it basically means Mugabe is in authority, there is no parliament to supervise him leaving him as the sole person in charge and the Prime Minister is just there for the sake of national unity but now he can't rely on parliament as was the case whenever he wanted to challenge the president in the past.

Which of the two candidates is likely to appeal to voters the most?

At the moment independent sort of opinion polls done both locally and internationally, in particular, in the US, give Mugabe a lead over the Prime Minister's party the MDC. But when you look at certain gestures on the ground, the MDC completed its primary process for elections much earlier than the ZANU-PF party despite the fact that they were not ready for the elections. They can go for elections and give ZANU-PF a run for their money. Going by public pronouncements, Mugabe is fairly confident, but in reality this is one of those elections where he knows that he is fighting tooth and nail to survive, so we still have a major battle ahead of us.

Can we say there is a level playing field for the ruling ZANU-PF party and the opposition MDC party?

We are far from a level playing field because everything is in the favor of President Robert Mugabe. If you look at the media reports, especially on Zimbabwe television,  they are heavily biased in favor of the president to the extent of always attacking the opposition. So the playing field is not level. The army still favors the president; the police still give statements to the effect that they favor the president, so it's not a level playing field.

What role should SADC play to ensure that there's a levelled field in Zimbabwe before the polls?

SADC will continue to mediate to ensure that the principles of the national unity are adhered to as much as possible, and also to make sure that under the constitution we adopted we are given an opportunity to undertake the minimum reforms we need before we go for the elections.

Thomas Deve is an independent analyst and political activist in Zimbabwe.

Interviewer: Chrispin Mwakideu 

DW.DE