- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 15, 2008

CAPE TOWN, South Africa | The Zimbabwean government of President Robert Mugabe is considering a third election before the end of the year to ensure that the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) loses its current majority in Parliament.

This was told to The Washington Times by a senior member of Mr. Mugabe’s secret police, the Central Intelligence Organization (CIO), who produced a document he said had been discussed in the ruling party’s highest decision-making body, the Soviet-styled Politburo.

The officer, who was on a visit to Cape Town in South Africa, said he would “disappear” if it was known that he had leaked the information, and spoke on the condition of anonymity.

Talks between Mr. Mugabe’s Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF) and the MDC are set to resume Wednesday, part of a South African-brokered effort to achieve a deal between the two parties.

Mr. Mugabe has declared his commitment to the negotiation process but is demanding that he lead the government. He has not spoken about any plans for another election this year. Repeated efforts to reach Mr. Mugabe’s spokesman, George Charamba, by telephone for this article were not successful.

Human rights groups say that 114 people - most of them MDC officials - have been killed in the past four months, while thousands have been tortured and an estimated 200,000 displaced or rendered homeless.

“The violence you see on the ground, burning people’s homes, killing MDC [supporters], torturing people, all this will continue, so that Mugabe can call another election and make sure the wins,” the intelligence officer said. “When that is done, he will set up a government of national unity with the MDC as junior partner.”

In a March 29 general election, Mr. Mugabe’s ZANU-PF lost its majority in Parliament for the first time since rising to power in 1980.

A presidential election on the same day gave MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai 47.9 percent of the vote against 43.2 for Mr. Mugabe. Under the constitution, a winning candidate must secure 50 percent plus one vote in order to avoid a runoff.

The runoff election, which by law should have been held within 21 days of the first vote, took place on June 27, nearly three months later.

Mr. Tsvangirai withdrew five days before the ballot, accusing the government of killing his election monitors and making it impossible for him to campaign. Mr Tsvangirai had been detained by police eight times in the previous week.

Mr. Mugabe proceeded with the election with himself as the sole candidate. The ballot was marked by a low turnout, a high incidence of spoiled ballots and allegations by observers that, in rural areas, people had been forced to polling stations by armed militia. Mr. Mugabe was sworn in as president on June 29.

In London, Zimbabwean lawyer Gugulethu Moyo, who works with the International Bar Association, said that Mr. Mugabe has the power to order a new election.

“The constitution gives the president power to call a general election any time he likes. He doesn’t have to confer with anyone, and although by law the longest a government can stay in office is five years, there is no minimum term. He could do it tomorrow,” she said.

The CIO officer said a second option under discussion was to jail or kill enough MDC lawmakers to reduce the party’s lead in the House, but this was considered unworkable because it could take too long and would not provide a sufficient margin for Mr. Mugabe’s party.

Before the March election, ZANU-PF held a two-thirds majority in Parliament, enough to change the constitution at will.

At the Group of Eight summit in Japan last week, member nations including Britain, Canada and the United States refused to recognize the result of the June presidential vote or Mr. Mugabe’s position as head of state.

Several African countries, including Nigeria, Kenya, Liberia, Zambia and Botswana, also have taken this stand.

From Harare, Mr. Tsvangirai said he was not surprised by the news and said his party had been aware of discussions within the Politburo to regain its parliamentary majority “by any means.”

“There must be a reason behind the current terror, and it is possible that ZANU-PF is trying to create a situation where they can hold yet another vote on their terms,” he said in a telephone interview.

“The violence we saw before the presidential election has continued. Every day I get reports of MDC members who have been tortured or burned to death. More than 1,000 of our polling agents are still missing from before last month’s vote.”

“This is why we call upon all countries that value freedom to maintain the pressure for a transitional government in Zimbabwe. Not a government of national unity and never recognition of any regime that has put itself in power by terrorizing the population.”

Last week, the South African newspaper Beeld claimed to have seen documents from sources within ZANU-PF laying out strategy for “no-go areas” where MDC could not campaign or maintain party structures.

The newspaper said that a key organizer of the plan was former Bulawayo Mayor Joshua Teke Malinga, 64, a member of Mr. Mugabe’s inner circle, whom the paper also accused of establishing a “torture center” near the Bulawayo central police station.

In 2002, Mr. Malinga and his wife were detained at London’s Gatwick Airport as they tried to board a flight to New York after it was discovered that their names were on a list of Zimbabweans banned from entering the United States because of their links to Mr. Mugabe.

Mr. Tsvangirai has called for a transitional authority whose sole mandate would be to restore the rule of law, disband government militias and arrange fresh elections under control of the African Union or the United Nations.

On Friday, a U.N. resolution calling for global sanctions against Mr. Mugabe and many of his senior leaders was defeated by vetoes from Russia and China. South Africa lobbied against the motion, arguing that negotiations had not run their course.

However, in a statement Monday, the ruling African National Congress (ANC) said that Pretoria may support a similar proposal in the future, and in the party’s strongest condemnation to date, said that the ANC “unequivocally condemns the violence, intimidation and political intolerance to which the Zimbabwean people have been subjected.”

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