PRESIDENT Robert Mugabe’s backdoor political manoeuvres to use the High Court to stampede the country into early elections by or on June 29 were thwarted this week after he was forced to abandon his application following court action by Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and media spotlight on the issue.
Report by Owen Gagare
Mugabe and his loyalists desperately want polls by June as fears mount the 89-year-old leader –– who recently admitted aging complications and attendant frailty were taking their toll on him –– might struggle to sustain rigorous election campaigns if polls are further delayed.
Inside sources say although the initial fears were Mugabe would be sabotaged in his re-election bid by fierce internal Zanu PF strife and his raging succession battles, the main problem is turning out to be the timing of the elections, and age and ill-health problems.
Zanu PF has since 2010 been anxiously demanding early elections to avoid Mugabe’s age and health being issues during elections, informed party insiders say.
“The issue is here is that Zanu PF fears are mounting over the timing of elections as this has a serious bearing on Mugabe’s capacity to sustain demanding elections campaigns,” a senior Zanu PF official said.
“The more we delay elections the more out candidates get frailer because he getting old by the day. At we are lucky that the issue of factionalism and succession have not exploded as we widely feared.”
As elections delay, Zanu PF is increasingly sweating over the timing of polls, especially as Mugabe continues to hint he is now frail due to “wear and tear”.
Through Justice minister Patrick Chinamasa, Mugabe took advantage of a Matabeleland by-elections to file an urgent application seeking to be excused from proclaiming election dates in three constituencies “on condition that the applicant ensures that harmonised elections are held by June 29 2013”.
Chinamasa argued constitutionally, the life of parliament ends on June 29 by which date general elections must be held. “That the applicant (Mugabe) be and is hereby excused from performance of the order granted in case No 11222 of 2012 provided that harmonised elections are held on or before June 29 2013,” the application said.
The move, however, triggered a political storm as it was seen as a calculating bid to circumvent the Global Political Agreement (GPA) which states Mugabe should proclaim election dates in consultation with Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai.
It was also viewed as an attempt to stampede the country into elections without fully implementing the GPA and the election roadmap – which includes crucial democratic reforms – as insisted on by Sadc.
In the wake of Mugabe’s application, Tsvangirai made his own application last Thursday opposing the demand to give him Mugabe more room on by-election dates proclamation “on condition that harmonised elections are held by June 29 2013”.
After Mugabe’s hidden political agenda was exposed by the Zimbabwe Independent last week, Deputy Attorney-General Prince Machaya, representing the president, on Wednesday revealed his client was abandoning his initial application for an interim relief and doing away with demands general elections be held by or on June 29.
Machaya indicated his client’s application was now centred on the feasibility of conducting by-elections in June if parliament is dissolved around the same time.
Mugabe’s U-turn means elections are now most likely to be held after June 29, a worrying development for an already besieged Zanu PF which has for years been concerned about Mugabe’s worsening frailty.
The MDC formations and Sadc are pushing for elections to be held later than June 29 to allow for adequate time to synchronise existing legislation, such as the Electoral Act, with the new constitution as well as implement key provisions of the elections roadmap to ensure credible polls.
Mugabe has however been steadfastly insisting polls, since 2011 and now is demanding at the cut-off date. His spokesman George Charamba has said his boss wants polls by June 29 as going beyond that would tantamount to “constitutional indiscipline”.
Senior Zanu PF officials, however, said the real reason for the push for early polls is the fear that further delays would work against the party given that Mugabe may not be able to withstand the rigours of a tough presidential election campaign due to lack of stamina and endurance. “This is precisely the reason why we want polls yesterday,” said a politburo member.
“Actually June 29 is too late for us. We would have wanted to have held the elections by as early as 2011. We have been pushing and pushing for elections because we are cognisant of the fact that one of our major weaknesses is our candidate’s age.”