Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe will this month meet with leaders of the country’s military to ask them to refrain from the political violence that poll observers said helped him win four elections since 2000, two people with knowledge of the situation said.
Mugabe, 88, is under pressure from leaders of the 15-nation Southern African Development Community to allow an election he has called for March to proceed without violence because they want an end to the crisis that has disrupted the economy of the country and its neighbors for the last 12 years.
The two people, one a senior member of the Movement for Democratic Change, which opposes Mugabe’s party, and the other a member of the politburo of the president’s Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front, declined to be identified because of the sensitive of negotiations between the parties.
The military, accused by the MDC and groups including Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights, of intimidating voters in previous elections, pose a threat to a peaceful vote as leaders including Constantine Chiwenga, commander in chief of the military, have repeatedly threatened not to accept a national leader who didn’t take part in the country’s liberation war that ended in 1980. MDC leader and Zimbabwe’s prime minister, Morgan Tsvangirai, 60, didn’t take part in the armed struggle against white rule.
While Mugabe, who has ruled the country since formal independence from the U.K. in 1980, won disputed elections in 2000, 2002 and 2005 his party lost its majority in parliament in 2008 and a second-round presidential vote was boycotted by Tsvangirai because he said the army and Zanu-PF militia were killing and intimidating his supporters.
SADC forced Mugabe and the MDC to share power in an agreement that took effect in February the next year.
George Charamba, a spokesman for Mugabe, declined to comment when called by Bloomberg while Rugare Gumbo, a spokesman for Zanu-PF, didn’t answer calls made to his mobile phone.
Mugabe was persuaded last week by SADC leaders to meet with his generals this month and order them to restrain troops before the elections, the people said.
Ahead of the June 2008 presidential run-off election Tsvangirai said that 86 of his supporters had been killed in a campaign of violence.
The run-up to that vote was marred by “state-sponsored violence” and voter intimidation, Marwick Khumalo, head of the Pan African Parliament observer term said in an interview on June 29, 2008. The U.S. and European Union also condemned the election.
Zimbabwe’s economy exited a decade-long recession in 2009 with millions of Zimbabweans migrating illegally to neighboring countries such as South Africa and Botswana during that period. The U.S. and EU imposed travel bans and asset freezes on Mugabe and some of his allies to protest the violence in election campaigns.
The economy is forecast to expand 5.6 percent this year, according to Tendai Biti, the finance minister. On Oct. 30 the nation’s central bank held its first successful securities sale since 2008, selling $9.9 million of 91-day Treasury bills.
On Oct. 8 Mugabe called for tolerance ahead of the election while speaking at a funeral in Harare, the capital. That echoed similar calls made in August and April.
Mugabe has managed to “skirt the issue of media and security reform,” Alois Masepe, a political scientist at the University of Zimbabwe, said in an interview. “The proof will be in the actions of the military.”