ZIMBABWE’s hopes of holding a credible poll have been dashed following a court ruling ordering elections by July 31, but analysts argue the move was not feasible to create a free and fair environment.
REPORT BY DUMISANI SIBANDA/MERNAT MAFIRAKUREWA
This follows a Supreme Court ruling on Friday ordering President Robert Mugabe to call for elections by July 31.
Mugabe immediately said he would uphold the judgment, promising to proclaim poll dates upon his return from Japan this week after consulting Justice minister Patrick Chinamasa.
But analysts yesterday concurred with Justice Luke Malaba, one of the two dissenting judges, who indicated that it was a wrong interpretation of the law to say elections should be held at the latest on the day the life of Parliament end on June 29.
He maintained there was provision to hold the polls within four months of its dissolution.
“Section 6(3) of the Part 3 of the Sixth Schedule requires that there be conducted by the Registrar-General of voters under the supervision of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission a special and intensive voter registration and voters’ roll inspection exercise for at least 30 days after the publication day,” he said.
Malaba pointed out that in fixing the election date Mugabe would have to take into account the amendments which have to be made by Parliament to the Electoral Law and other regulations relating to the conduct of the elections to conform them to the new Constitution.
Lawyer Chris Mhike said: “In the context of the traditional behaviour of the reigning Inclusive Government, July 31, 2013 appears to be highly doubtful as a deadline date for a clean, credible, and legitimate election.
“In theory, there is nothing to stop government from implementing all the Global Political Agreement (GPA) reforms, regional and international best practice standards on elections; and effecting the necessary legislative reforms that are necessary for the holding of free and fair elections, now. However, various factors negate the feasibility of an equitable poll between now and July 31, 2013. These aggravating factors include, inter-alia: the apparent lack of funds for the financing of all the necessary electoral processes; the lack of political will on the part of certain powerful bureaucrats who are loudly rubbishing the need for pre-election reform; and the delicacy of the process for the alignment of the Electoral Act and various draconian statutes, with the new Constitution of Zimbabwe.”
Mhike added: “With a little less than two months before the expiry of the deadline; without a declaration yet on the commencement of the ‘Electoral Period,’ and in light of the extensive nature of the preparatory work that needs to be undertaken ahead of general elections, we certainly have something of a phenomenal predicament on our hands.”
Education minister and lawyer David Coltart said the Supreme Court decision would “seriously undermine our chances of having credible elections”.
“Far from this judgment being a triumph for the rule of law it poses a very serious challenge to the painstakingly constructed process of peaceful reform we have been engaged in during the last five years,” Coltart said.
“So assuming that the constitutionally mandated period of registration begins on Monday the 3rd of June it must then run until the end of 3rd July. That means that the nomination day cannot be before the 5th of July. There have to be 28 days between the nomination day and the election which means the election cannot be before the 2nd of August if the Constitution and Electoral Act are to be complied with.”
Constitutional lawyer Greg Linington also described the decision by the Constitutional Court as “shocking”.
“I am amazed. I am shocked by the decision. I disagree with the decision, but agree with the position by the two judges who dissented,” Linington said.
“Practically, there are issues to do with voters’ roll and other supporting mechanisms that have to be in place before polls. My reading of the law is that there are four months after the expiry of the life of Parliament within which to hold the polls.”