Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai could have shot himself in the foot by taking President Robert Mugabe to court over outstanding Global Political Agreement (GPA) issues, analysts said Thursday.
On Wednesday, Tsvangirai filed a High Court application seeking to have the appointments of 10 provincial governors annulled arguing they were illegal.
Officials from the Prime Minister’s Office said the route taken by the PM was appropriate.
“The intention of the Prime Minister is to return the country to constitutional rule following the breakdown of the rule of law and deepening dictatorship manifested by unilateral and unlawful appointments of various state functionaries,” said Jameson Timba, the Minister of State in the Prime Minister’s Office.
But analysts said the Prime Minister’s actions were inappropriate, especially coming at a time when the mediator, South African President Jacob Zuma, was due in Harare today to deal with the outstanding issues.
Political analyst Takura Zhangazha says Tsvangirai had given President Mugabe and Zanu PF a golden opportunity to hang on to the disputed positions on the basis that the issue was now before the courts of law and therefore sub judice.
“I think it is the Prime Minister’s right, both as an individual and in his capacity as Prime Minister, to redress processes that he thinks are not in tandem with the law,” Zhangazha said.
“But on the political front, it means whatever President Jacob Zuma may say, Zanu PF might argue that the issues are before the courts and therefore sub judice.”
“Zanu PF may not accept discussion on the matter. President Zuma may be told that outstanding issues, especially the appointment of governors, are being considered by the courts.”
Zhangazha said the filing of the court papers would escalate the tension between the President and the Prime Minister.
“But the other side is that it puts pressure on the judiciary because this is both a political and a legal issue. That basically means the courts will determine whether they can make a decision quickly or treat it as business as usual,” he said.
Constitutional lawyer Lovermore Madhuku said Tsvangirai’s legal recourse was a waste of time because the dispute was of “a political nature which required a political solution”.
“From a political point it is purely a waste of time,” Madhuku said. “A breach of the GPA is a political problem which requires a political solution.”
Madhuku said contraventions of the country’s Constitution did not necessarily need to be taken to court especially when they required political solutions.
It’s politics,” he said. “It’s not every disagreement that requires a legal solution. Not every breach of the Constitution requires a legal solution. Some disputes by their very nature cannot be resolved by the courts.”
Madhuku said the Prime Minister needed to be adequately advised on how best to tackle such problems.
“Tsvangirai and his team need some lessons on these issues because they keep making the same mistakes,” he said.
Trust Maanda, a Harare-based lawyer, said a legal confrontation between the President and the Prime Minister had the potential of plunging the country into a constitutional crisis.
“This case will bring to the fore whether we have a constitutional crisis or not,” Maanda said.
“The executive is at loggerheads and seeking the intervention of another arm of government which is the judiciary.
“We do not know if the judiciary will have the courage to play a supervisory role over how the executive ought to run itself. We will also see whether the executive will accept to be bound by a judiciary decision. It’s now a yardstick of whether there is going to be a constitutional crisis or not.”
President Mugabe’s spokesperson George Charamba accused the MDC-T leader of hiring a foreign lawyer to prepare the court papers against the President.
The claim was immediately rubbished by the MDC-T.
“The Prime Minister’s lawyers are Dube, Manikai and Hwacha who are Zimbabweans as they come,” said Luke Tamborinyoka, the Premier’s spokesperson.
“Charamba’s fictional views on foreigners have become dangerous to him. If anyone can believe that Selby Hwacha, who is representing the Prime Minister in this case, is a foreigner, then Mr Charamba himself is the Queen of England.”
Charamba told NewsDay: “The advice for the Prime Minister to sue the President came from a lawyer from outside the country. It was not an MDC mind but a foreign mind against the advice of local lawyers. The advice did not come from local lawyers who understand our Constitution. It came from an outsider.”
He said by taking the dispute to court it meant the issues were now beyond the processes of the inclusive government and the mediator.
“The mediator knows very well he cannot do anything until the court process is over. It puts the matters beyond the executive and Sadc,” Charamba said.
“We will eagerly wait to see whether the Prime Minister of this country can sue his President. The courts will enlighten us.”