PRESIDENT Robert Mugabe’s proclamation yesterday that general elections must be held on July 31 as recently ordered by the Constitutional Court (Concourt) after a Zanu PF-inspired court application, has the potential of creating a messy political affair before the crucial polls while keeping Zimbabwe stuck in a stalemate.
Besides the proclamation of election dates, Mugabe, in an extraordinary Government Gazette published yesterday, issued a statutory instrument using the draconian Presidential Powers (Temporary Measures) Act to unilaterally amend the Electoral Act to suit his election agenda now being executed under the guise of implementing a court order.
The regulations contain 75 pages of amendments to the Electoral Act initially expected to come before parliament next week.
In a development which showed he has no regard for democracy or ensuring free and fair elections, Mugabe used his powers of decree, his favourite option to make regulations amending laws when it is inconvenient to wait for parliament or in the absence of the legislature.
In so doing, Mugabe gave the impression he was hurrying to implement the controversial Concourt order, although his regime has a long record of ignoring due process, court orders and selective application of the law, quite apart from purging dissenting judges and packing the court benches with punier ones, as well as undermining the rule of law, and encouraging lawlessness and impunity.
Mugabe is not an advocate of the rule of law. As matters stand, he has still not been able to implement a Supreme Court order issued last year for him to proclaim by-elections dates initially by August 31 2012. Instead he has used the High Court to delay doing that until June 29, effectively evading and defying the order given his proclamation yesterday.
But now, all of a sudden — without any sense of irony after he said he won’t rule by decree and pretending to be a convert to the rule of law despite that no one believes him — Mugabe wants to implement the Concourt ruling which may well have been initiated by his supporters using the courts to achieve what he has failed to achieve politically.
Constitutional and legal scholars and experts have poked holes in the Concourt ruling, showing it was badly flawed and a disservice to democracy even though its architects claimed it was designed to protect democratic imperatives by ensuring that at all times the three arms of the state — executive, judiciary and legislature — are there to avoid rule by decree.
Editor’s Memob by Dumisani Muleya
Inevitably, events on the ground, including Mugabe’s use of emergency powers, and the ruling’s inherent contradictions, have shown this claim was phony.
Of course, Mugabe makes no reference to the need for free and fair elections in all this. The reason why Zimbabwe has this coalition government after the bloody 2008 presidential election run-off fiasco and the attendant killings, is that it should eventually organise peaceful and credible polls — which can’t be achieved through deception — to take the country forward.
This is what Sadc leaders meeting in Maputo tomorrow must remind him. He must not be allowed to hide behind the Concourt ruling which came after an application whose genesis and motive remain dodgy, though decipherable.
The whole plot by power-hungry but short-sighted Zanu PF hawks has created a political cauldron in Zimbabwe in a situation already explosive.
Even if Mugabe and his Fifth Columnists behind the Concourt application eventually bulldoze their way, it is democracy and Zimbabwe that will be greatest losers.
If elections are held against a background of dubious electoral processes and chaotic preparations and won by Mugabe and Zanu PF, despite their legacy of disastrous failure, the outcome will be a democratic aberration which takes Zimbabwe nowhere.