In terms of Section 63 (4) of the Constitution, “Parliament, unless sooner dissolved, shall last for five years, which period shall be deemed to commence on the day the person elected as president enters office after an election … and shall then stand dissolved.”
This means the term of parliament is linked to the president’s tenure. Mugabe was sworn in on June 29 2008, which means parliament’s term expires June 29 2013.
However, the constitution allows the president to dissolve parliament before its term ends. If he does not, elections must be held after June 29 next year. According to Section 58 of the constitution, a general election shall be held within a period not exceeding four months after parliament is dissolved. This means the maximum constitutional limit for polls is October 29 next year.
This puts paid to Mugabe’s claims that he cannot extend the inclusive government beyond March 2013.
The issue was clarified at the Sadc troika meeting in Luanda last week by MDC leader Welshman Ncube who said the five-year term of parliament ends in June 2013, which he pointed out was the month when the president was sworn in.
This was not disputed by Mugabe and his team, who included lawyers Patrick Chinamasa (Justice minister) and Zanu PF legal secretary Emmerson Mnangagwa.
Ncube was correcting Mugabe who had earlier claimed the inclusive government was illegal and could not go beyond March next year.
In an interview with the Zimbabwe Independent this week, MDC-T negotiator Tendai Biti said if there was no premature dissolution of parliament, elections must be held within four months after June 29 next year.
“The term of office of parliament commences from the day the president is sworn in, so this means that the five-year expiry date is June 29 2013,” he said.
“So what this means is that we have up to end of June next year to implement the reforms and hold elections thereafter. This is why we were given 12 months to implement the reforms at the troika meeting.”
Although he agreed with Biti, Zanu PF negotiator Patrick Chinamasa told a Sapes Trust policy dialogue last night, “There will be elections sooner rather than later. Elections must be held by June 29 2013.”