Odinga told Tsvangirai’s MDC third Congress in Bulawayo that going into a rushed election will produce the same problems which led to deaths, arrests and disappearance of the labour-backed party’s members.
He told the more than 6000 delegates at the colourful congress that a new constitution was necessary before the holding of the next election.
“Zimbabwe must move quickly to resolve its democratic challenges, so that it can take its rightful place as a potential centre for economic growth in this part of the continent,” said Odinga.
“You will have to dig deep into your reservoirs of tolerance and compromise to ensure that this happens, for the alternative would serve neither the MDC nor its partner in government. It would only cripple the nation,” he added.
“Not that constitutions themselves are inviolable. We have not been without constitutions. We have had them, but they have been repeatedly amended at the whim of the ruling elite, and have sustained and entrenched powerful presidents whose word has been law, and who have used their power not for the nation’s benefit but for their own enrichment. Where such leaders have refused to give way through the ballot – and let’s face it, that is, most of them – military dictatorships have sometimes ensued, and these have fared no better,” said Odinga.
Welcoming Odinga to the function, Tsvangirai said the MDC was campaigning for a new constitution.
“We believe in Constitutionalism, the rule of law and the respect for all the basic freedoms that make a society vibrant. These are the rights that we in Zimbabwe are fighting to enjoy,” said Tsvangirai.
Although Tsvangirai told delegates at the opening of the congress on Thursday that Zimbabwe will hold elections in 12 months time, the state-owned Herald newspaper on Friday quoted Patrick Chinamasa, the chief negotiator for President Robert Mugabe’s Zanu (PF) that elections scheduled for this year may be delayed until 2013.
The paper said MDC and zanu (PF) need to agree on constitutional changes, media reform and targetted sanctions imposed on Mugabe and members of his party. He was also quoted saying those negotiations, overseen by South African President Jacob Zuma, must be concluded before elections can be held.
Finance Minister Tendai Biti said this week Zimbabwe was too broke to hold elections.
Earlier Odinga met with Mugabe at State House in Harare but did not comment on the coalition government, although he said he had fruitful talks with the Zanu (PF) leader.
The MDC’s congress started in Bulawayo on Thursday and will end on Saturday after the election of new leaders.