Mugabe stutters on poll dates

HARARE - President Robert Mugabe has failed to announce dates for the much-awaited harmonised elections as he promised two weeks ago.

Mugabe, 89, has been clamouring for polls since 2009, but upped the ante a fortnight ago when he threatened to make a proclamation by last Saturday.  

Three days after his deadline passed, his opponents say he is bluffing and has no intention of holding a fresh poll since his party is in disarray.

There is chaos in Zanu PF over primary elections, whose criteria has divided the former ruling party.

Zanu PF has created a restructuring team that is hopping from one province to another, reading the riot act to party officials who are divided along factional lines, some backing Defence minister Emmerson Mnangagwa and others Vice President Joice Mujuru to take over from Mugabe.

Observers say with Zanu PF in such a precarious state, Mugabe will not declare elections anytime soon contrary to his public posturing and bravado.

Rugare Gumbo, Zanu PF’s spokesperson, dismissed allegations that the liberation war movement was faction-torn and not ready for polls.

“There is nothing like we fear elections,” Gumbo told the Daily News yesterday.

“The teams that have been dispatched to provinces are establishing the state of preparedness for the forthcoming elections and we are prepared for the elections anytime.”

But the MDC formations in the unity government say provisions in the draft constitution which now await Mugabe’s assent make it impossible for an election by June 29 as the country needs at least 44 days to prepare for the watershed plebiscite.

Mugabe, who is in an uneasy coalition with Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, two weeks ago threatened to unilaterally declare poll dates soon after the Constitution sails through Parliament.

Although Parliament passed the draft constitution last Wednesday, the 89-year-old strongman is yet to act.

Mugabe’s spokesperson George Charamba promised to respond to inquiries on the poll date declaration after 12pm yesterday, but was later unreachable amid reports he was locked in meetings.

The octogenarian leader’s opponents say the former guerrilla leader, in power since independence from Britain in 1980, is receiving poor legal and political advice.

Douglas Mwonzora, the co-chairperson of the Constitutional Parliamentary Committee (Copac) that led the drafting of the new constitution, said Mugabe is trying to move mountains and knows the futility of his actions.

“June 29 is now a legal impossibility,” Mwonzora said.

“There must a period of 44 days between the declaration and the actual polling. In terms of the new constitution, the calling of a Nomination Court must be done within a period of 14 days.

After Nomination Court, there must a period of at least 30 days to the actual polling. This makes a total of 44 days.

“Mugabe knew this was impossible since he started posturing and this also shows that he is receiving very poor quality legal advice and we feel sorry for him.”.

Industry and Commerce minister, Welshman Ncube, who heads the smaller MDC formation in the coalition government, told his supporters in Chikomba last week that although there is an appetite for elections to end the tenuous unity government, there is no legal outlet to allow for a June 29 election.

“We might need elections as soon as possible, but the law does not allow it. The earliest date is August 14 and the latest is October 31. Even Mugabe knows about this. He has been proclaiming election dates since 2009, but nothing happened which means the law takes its course,” he said.

Zanu PF has been forced to restructure its Manicaland and Bulawayo provinces due to infighting. Despite claims that Mugabe’s house is now in order in the two provinces, those knocked off their posts are said to be seething with anger.

Zimbabwe’s road towards polls has thus far been thorny with the country presently unable to finance the poll which requires at least $120 million.

Tsvangirai, who acts as the spokesperson of the GPA principals, said the last time they met, it was agreed that a committee comprising of minister of Justice Patrick Chinamasa and minister of Constitutional Affairs, Eric Matinenga would spearhead poll preparations.

“It always makes sense to follow what is logical,” Tsvangirai’s spokesperson Luke Tamborinyoka said.  

“The president knows better that he cannot decide alone dates for elections but it has to be agreed by the principals. The last time the principals met, it was agreed that minister Chinamasa and minister Matinenga would consult all the parties including minister Ncube and then agree on a roadmap to elections.

“While that two member committee is yet to come back to the principals, the president cannot declare dates for elections (alone).”

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