PRESIDENT Robert Mugabe does not have powers to dissolve parliament and call for fresh elections during the existence of the Global Political Agreement (GPA), constitutional and political analysts said this week.
Mugabe claimed on his return from Singapore on Sunday that he could invoke his constitutional powers and dissolve parliament should the inclusive government deteriorate into a dysfunctional entity due to disagreements among the parties making up the coalition.
Constitutional expert Lovemore Madhuku said Mugabe cannot go it alone under the present constitution as he is circumscribed by GPA and constitutional Amendment No 19.
The relevant GPA section 20.1.3 (q) says: “The President … may, acting in consultation with the Prime-Minister, dissolve Parliament.” The provision is also captured in constitutional Amendment 19.
“Under the GPA, the president requires the consent of the prime minister, but my reading is that Mugabe can cause the collapse of the inclusive government by pulling out consequently reverting the situation to the pre-inclusive government period,” said Madhuku.
The collapse of the inclusive government, he said, will automatically trigger the holding of harmonised elections as spelt out “clearly” by constitutional Amendment 18 of January 2008.
“If the GPA collapses, Mugabe will remain the president through the controversial June 2008 mandate,” Madhuku said, “Mugabe will thus call for fresh harmonised elections and that is a correct position legally.”
Analysts explained that the harmonisation of elections was done through constitutional Amendment 18 long before the coalition government was in place, voiding the interpretation by MDC-T that only presidential elections will be held if the inclusive government collapses.
Greg Linnington, a constitutional law lecturer at the University of Zimbabwe, said that while Mugabe had no mandate under the GPA to dissolve parliament, it was still feasible for him to call for fresh elections if his party pulled out of the government.
“Mugabe can only exercise the discretion to dissolve parliament in consultation with the prime minister according to Amendment19,” Linnington said. “MDC-T’s position that only the presidential election is due is null. All elections in Zimbabwe have been harmonised through Amendment 18.”
Mass Public Opinion Institute director and political science lecturer at the University of Zimbabwe, Eldred Masunungure, opined that Mugabe was constitutionally mandated to dissolve parliament but questioned the political correctness of such a move.
“Mugabe is constitutionally empowered to do what he said,” Masunungure said, “However, the question that has not been analysed is –– ‘Is it politically correct to dissolve parliament now and call for elections?’”
But MDC-T Chief Whip in the House of Assembly, who is also the Mutare Central MP, Innocent Gonese, had a contrary view.
“It is not correct that Mugabe can call for elections because Constitution Amendment Number 19 stipulates it is no longer the sole prerogative of President Mugabe to call for elections,” Gonese told NewsDay. “In terms of Constitutional Amendment 19 he has to consult Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara, which means they must agree if parliament has to be dissolved.”
Gonese, a lawyer, said everything to do with elections had to be agreed upon by the three political parties in the GPA. Mugabe has openly expressed his unhappiness with the GPA in December after separately meeting South African President and Sadc mediator Jacob Zuma and his facilitation team that had come to assess the implementation of the agreement.
Mugabe said: “I told President Zuma I am a lawyer and I am unhappy to be in a thing which is semi-legal,” he said. “We have to be in a thing which is proper; which is constitutional. I feel awkward in a thing like that (the GPA), absolutely awkward.
“Our authority as a government does not derive from a properly constituted constitutional position but from a makeshift arrangement and should never be governed on such a makeshift arrangement for too long.”
Since then and possibly preparing groundwork for the eventual break-up of the unity government, Zanu PF senior figures have taken up the mantra.
Writing in the Sunday Mail last weekend, the recently recalled Zanu PF politburo member Jonathan Moyo called for the dissolution of the inclusive government, which he called “a mix of water and oil”.
“The coalition government was, right from the signing of the GPA on September 15 2008, a doomed creature whose semi-legal nature was made worse by the bringing together of ideologically irreconcilable political forces with the inevitable result of producing an awkward and dysfunctional structure called an ‘inclusive government’ which existed only in name,” Moyo opined.
Analysts say it is likely that Mugabe and Zanu PF are trying to engineer the demise of the inclusive government, which would give the ageing leader exclusive executive powers legally and then force through elections on their terms.