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Government or no government?

ZIMBABWE has limped along for over three weeks now with no official government in place. 

It looks like we may well limp along for many more weeks and even months yet before this current constitutional crisis is resolved. 

Robert Mugabe dissolved cabinet the day before the March 29 election as is normal practice and as required by the constitution in preparation for the elections. 

Despite the “government statement” on April 9 and the “reaffirmation of the position” by Sikhanyiso Ndlovu, former Minister of Information,“that all cabinet ministers are still in office until such a time that a new cabinet is appointed to conduct government business,” this is not the case.

A dissolved cabinet is a dissolved cabinet!   They can pretend among themselves as much as they like that they are still in office, but they are not. 

The majority of Zimbabweans are still waiting for the new cabinet to be announced.  We are well aware that there is no substantive government in place.

The danger, however, is that because of lack of independent media, especially in the rural areas, people will start to accept and even act upon the lies put out by “government”. 

It is a well-known phenomenon that if something is said by an “authority”, that statement will be accepted and even acted upon. 

Remember the psychology experiment where someone turned up the electric voltage to way beyond the point where the recipient was screaming and would have died in reality, simply because he was obeying the person in authority.

The myth of the former Zimbabwe government continuing is even being spread by international media, who ought to know better. 

Recently the Mail & Guardian referred to Bright Matonga as the Deputy Minister for Information and Publicity, presumably because they too have fallen for the lie.

While we could be right in thinking that this situation proves that we could get along fine without the former government being in power, clearly we do need a substantive, constitutionally appointed cabinet, and as soon as possible. 

Neither our constitution, even the defective and much-amended Lancaster House version, nor the Electoral Act ever made provision for such an unthinkable hiatus following an election. 

This hiatus looks set to last for an indeterminate period, especially if we have court cases, appeals, challenges and so on, which is bound to happen. 

In the case of the 2000 elections, some 36 court challenges were filed and several MPs, including Kenneth Manyonda, were found not to have won freely and fairly, but those MPs appealed to the Supreme Court and remained sitting in parliament, passing laws for the full five-year term!

The mind boggles — but meantime we and the independent media all need to do everything in our power to stop this lie (and others!) from spreading.

By Trudy Stevenson

Stevenson is the former MP for Harare North.


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