Ministerial committee has its work cut out

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THE ministerial committee appointed by President Robert Mugabe and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai to come up with a “legal and political election roadmap” has its work cut out as it must wait for parliament to resume sitting next month.

By Paidamoyo Muzulu

Parliament is due to open on May 7, but can resume a week earlier to deal with urgent issues.

The team compromising Justice minister Patrick Chinamasa and Constitutional and Parliamentary Affairs minister Eric Matinenga is tasked by the principals, Mugabe, Tsvangirai and deputy premier Arthur Mutambara, with, among other issues, aligning the electoral laws, Urban Councils Act and Rural District Councils Act with the new draft constitution endorsed in the March 16 referendum, and coming up with a poll date.

The draft creates room for parliamentarians to be elected using the first-past-the-post system and proportional representation, in addition to the creation of provincial councils.

Matinenga on Tuesday said cabinet had not yet discussed any draft texts of the amendments envisaged, more than a month after endorsement of the draft.

“The cabinet committee on legislation has seen nothing of the proposed amendments since last month’s approval of the draft constitution. Not much has been happening on the drafting side,” he said.
The coalition government has in the past four years failed to meet its own timelines to implement reforms outlined in the Global Political Agreement (GPA) after negotiators and their parties reneged on agreed positions. In fact the GPA outlines the roadmap to elections but this has largely been ignored by the unity government parties.

However, the parties are now being pushed to action because parliament’s term ends on June 29 and the legislature has to pass the laws before its automatic dissolution.

Tsvangirai confirmed on Tuesday government was set to complete harmonising the country’s electoral laws to the new charter.

Mugabe and Tsvangirai have contradicted each other on election dates on numerous occasions since they formed the coalition government in 2009.

Mugabe, Chinamasa and Zanu PF have repeatedly demanded, among other dates, that general elections be held on or before June 29 —  which is now impossible to meet given processes underway — when the current parliament’s tenure ends, but Tsvangirai’s MDC-T and the MDC led by Industry and Commerce minister Welshman Ncube have dismissed the calls insisting poll dates would only be decided by consensus.

Matinenga confirmed he was going to meet with Chinamasa over poll dates.

“We have only met once since that announcement was made and the meeting was very short after minister Chinamasa said he was still to receive instructions from his principal,” Matinenga said.

Sadc — guarantors of the GPA — and the MDC formations insist on full implementation of reforms contained in the GPA before polls are held to ensure credibility, while Zanu PF is adamant the recently endorsed draft constitution and removal of sanctions were the only outstanding issues delaying the plebiscite.

Parliament is expected to pass the Constitution Amendment Bill to enable Zimbabwe to hold the next elections under the new constitution.

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