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Elections: Mugabe not off the hook

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President Robert Mugabe is likely to be pressured to return to the Constitutional Court to seek an extension of the July 31 election date deadline following strong objections by other political parties, sources in Maputo, where a Sadc special summit on Zimbabwe is being held today, told NewsDay yesterday.

John Nyashanu/Moses Matenga

Indications from Mozambique were that the regional bloc would opt for a “soft landing” as opposed to outright confrontation as the country surges towards watershed polls.

According to the sources, the most possible resolution was to request Mugabe — who goes to the summit armed with a Constitutional Court ruling that compelled him to proclaim an election date before the end of next month — to return to the court and ask for an extension period.

“It is unlikely that Sadc would attempt to overturn a Constitutional Court ruling as that would be tantamount to interfering with a sovereign country’s legal system.  However, Sadc leaders’ emissaries here are hinting on a resolution to force President Mugabe to seek an extension of the date from the same court which made the ruling,” sources said.

Following Mugabe’s proclamation and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and other parties’ rejection, all eyes are now on today’s summit to come up with a position.

Lindiwe Zulu, the spokesperson of the facilitation team, yesterday refused to comment on Mugabe’s proclamation, saying she could not pre-empt the summit’s strategy.

“We are not commenting on that because we are going for the meeting. We are yet to meet with negotiators this afternoon (yesterday), so there is nothing we can say until tomorrow’s (today) meeting. We have not heard from the negotiators,” said Zulu.

Sadc faces an MDC coalition that united with other opposition parties last week to stop President Mugabe from “bulldozing” his way to elections via the court processes.

Five political parties — MDC-T, MDC, Zapu, Mavambo/Kusile/Dawn (MKD) and Zanu Ndonga — yesterday wrote to Sadc seeking today’s meeting to block the proclamation of an election date by Mugabe saying the Zanu PF leader had acted “unconstitutionally and prematurely”.

At the meeting was MDC-T vice-president Thokozani Khupe, MKD leader Simba Makoni, MDC deputy president Edwin Mushoriwa, Zanu Ndonga president Reketai Semwayo and Zapu vice-president Emilia Mukaratirwa.

In a letter written to Sadc, the parties said they expected the summit to reaffirm previous resolutions and agreed roadmap to a free and fair election.

“ . . . that the President’s decision to proclaim the date of an election is premature and unconstitutional (and) that by invoking the Presidential powers, the President unjustifiably and unconstitutionally usurped the powers of Parliament whose tenure subsides on June 29, 2013,” reads the letter in part.

“That there should be a mandatory minimum 30-day period for voter registration that started on June 10, 2013 and that the situation created by Mugabe’s proclamation will disenfranchise many people who are still registering to vote, especially first-time voters and aliens,” the letter read.

The parties reaffirmed the call for security sector reform, media reform and a clean voters’ roll before talk of elections, adding that failure to implement such would render the holding of free and fair elections impossible.

The latest crisis has triggered a national debate with some hailing the President for obeying a court order while others blasted him for acting unilaterally and fast-tracking electoral laws without taking them to Parliament.

“I hope Sadc will be able to see and read the latest crisis and not allow Zanu PF to pull the Zimbabwean political rug from under their feet. Firstly, the GPA says he (Mugabe) should consult the PM on such issues, which he didn’t. Secondly, the voter registration and auditing is a process on its own. Thirdly, the agreed roadmap is yet to be completed. Surely, all these factors must be scrutinised by Sadc to see if July 31 is feasible,” said political analyst McDonald Lewanika.

However, Zanu PF-aligned Obadiah Musindo, the founder of a local NGO Destiny for Africa which seeks to empower blacks, was of a different view, saying the President was spot-on.

“Tsvangirai is accusing Mugabe of being the ‘chief attacker’ of the Constitution when he is the defender-in-chief. But if Mugabe is the defender-in-chief, he is obliged to comply with the Constitutional Court ruling, which he did. He accuses him of not upholding the Constitution yet Mugabe is complying with a Constitutional Court judgment. It’s unfortunate the Premier is openly contradicting himself,” said Musindo.

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