A MESSY political stand-off between President Robert Mugabe and other government principals has erupted after his proclamation of poll dates yesterday to meet the recent contentious Constitutional Court (Concourt) ruling ordering general elections by July 31, setting the stage for a bruising contest ahead.
Report by Faith Zaba
Mugabe yesterday notified Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, leader of the MDC-T, and Industry and Commerce minister Welshman Ncube, who heads the MDC, he had proclaimed July 31 as the general elections date. He fixed June 28 as the date for nomination of candidates and September 11 as the date for a possible presidential election run-off.
This came after Mugabe had used his emergency measures through the Presidential Powers (Temporary Measures) Act to amend the Electoral Act as waiting for parliament to do so next week was inconvenient.
The Concourt now faces a flood of court cases resulting from its
ruling in the Jealousy Mawarire case which Mugabe and Zanu PF have seized on to push their political agenda to have elections without reforms and on their own terms.
Reacting to the proclamation of the poll dates, Tsvangirai said Mugabe’s actions were “a clear, flagrant and fraudulent breach of our constitution”. Sources said the MDC-T is today expected to file two Concourt applications challenging Mugabe’s proclamation of election dates and arbitrary use of the powers of decree.
“The net effect of the proclamation is therefore to infringe on the constitutional provisions obliging the 30-day intensive voter registration exercise. It will also mean that President Mugabe is disenfranchising many people who were registering to vote, for instance, aliens and first-time voters. President Mugabe is also denying political parties and Zimbabweans the opportunity to inspect the voters’ roll,” Tsvangirai said yesterday.
“In any event, Section 26A of our Electoral Act Chapter 2:13 makes it clear that voter registration for everyone closes 24 hours before the sitting of the Nomination Court. This means that voter registration will now close on June 27,2013 instead of July 9 2013. A clear, flagrant and fraudulent breach of our constitution.”
The new constitution also makes it clear in Section 8 of the Sixth Schedule that the forthcoming elections must be conducted in “terms of the electoral law in conformity with this constitution”.
“The new electoral law, according to Section 157, ought to provide, among other things, for new issues such as proportional representation for the election of senators and the new two disabled senators and members of the newly-introduced provincial councils. As has been widely reported, cabinet only agreed to the proposed electoral law on Tuesday. President Mugabe in calling for an election when the electoral law has not been passed in parliament is clearly acting unconstitutionally,” he said.
The premier also said the use of the Presidential Powers (Temporary Measures) Act violated the new constitution.
“The Presidential Powers (Temporary Measures) Act, which in the past allowed the president to make laws on his own without parliament, is patently not in compliance with the new constitution,” he said.
“For the avoidance of doubt, Section 134A of the new constitution, makes it clear that only parliament has the power to make primary legislation and that its powers of making law cannot be delegated to anyone, including the president. In any event, what is the material urgency when parliament is still sitting until June 29 2013?”
The two MDC-T court applications today will bring to six the number of cases filed to stop elections from being held by July 31.
Tsvangirai insisted: “The point being made is that President Mugabe has acted unlawfully and unconstitutionally and is deliberately creating and precipitating an unnecessary constitutional crisis. The net effect of President Mugabe’s unilateral and illegal proclamation is an unmitigated frontal and rear attack on Sadc, the AU and (South African) President (Jacob) Zuma and his team.”
He further declared: “No one is going to force me into an election. I will not commit suicide.” Ncube, who was just as shocked as Tsvangirai about the unilateral proclamations, described Mugabe as possibly the most “deceitful politician” he has ever seen.
“We discussed this matter in cabinet on Tuesday and agreed that voter registration will take place until 9 July. We agreed that we would monitor voter registration every week and correct any anomalies that may arise. After approving the amendments, we agreed that they would be discussed in parliament,” Ncube said.
“(Justice minister Patrick) Chinamasa and our negotiators had also agreed with the (South African) facilitation team that there would be no proclamation of poll dates before the Sadc summit (tomorrow). That this could be done on the eve of the Sadc summit shows that this act is in brazen contempt of Sadc leaders.
“The irony in this is, basically that the Constitutional Court ruled that elections should be held by July 31 so that we don’t have to rule by decree. But we are now having to rule by decree to enforce the constitutional court judgment. What an irony!”
Zuma’s international relations advisor Lindiwe Zulu, who is part of the South African facilitation team, and Sadc executive secretary Tomaz Salomao said the matter would be dealt with at the Sadc meeting in Maputo tomorrow.
“We are going to the summit on Saturday (tomorrow) and we haven’t met with the negotiators, so I can’t comment on that, but that will be dealt with at the summit,” Zulu said.
Simba Makoni, Mavambo/Kusile/Dawn president, said Mugabe must ensure reforms are adopted before credible, free and fair elections are held.