Sadc in catch 22 situation over poll dates

HARARE - All eyes will be on Sadc leaders as they meet this weekend in Maputo, Mozambique, for an extraordinary summit to deal with Zimbabwe’s political and security situation ahead of elections which the Constitutional Court says have to be held by next month.

Sadc is eager to restore political and economic stability in Zimbabwe and prepare the southern African nation for harmonised free and fair elections.

Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, who is also MDC leader, and Industry and Commerce minister and smaller  MDC leader Welshman Ncube are said to have lobbied regional leaders for the special summit.

The Maputo extraordinary meeting is set to make a comprehensive review of the situation in Zimbabwe in the context of the Global Political Agreement (GPA) and the roadmap for elections as set by Sadc.

It will also look at the poll funding and how the country seeks to raise more than $100 million urgently needed for the elections.

But everything else under discussion at the Maputo extraordinary meeting will be dominated by the Constitutional Court’s deadline for holding elections and the electoral environment.

Mugabe and his party have in recent years been fighting with regional leaders over implementation of the GPA, roadmap and reforms before any credible elections could be held.

Sadc facilitator, South African President Jacob Zuma, and his team, have resisted Mugabe’s moves to wriggle out of the GPA set conditions and call for polls unilaterally.

But now armed with a Constitutional Court ruling compelling elections to be held by next month, a showdown looms in Maputo as Mugabe sees this as an excuse to ultimately hold the elections without adhering to all expected reforms.

Will Sadc accept the date set by the Constitutional Court given that all the reforms it had been lobbying for have not been met?

Media practitioner Rashweat Mukundu said this is a catch 22 situation for Sadc as the body cannot be seen to be going against a court ruling.

“Nevertheless this does not take away the demand by Sadc that significant reforms take place before the election, to make that process credible.

The pressure might as well fall on Zanu PF and President Mugabe to make this election process acceptable to their peers before the date set by the court.

“I doubt Sadc will accept anything less simply because there is no time,” said Mukundu.

Political activist Tabani Moyo said we have two positions here; the first one is that the court ordered the holding of elections by July 31 and that the political parties on the other hand are not yet ready for that hyped election which is being annexed to institutional reforms.

“Sadc will stick to its roadmap compliance before elections call and try as much as is possible that the feuding parties should reach an agreement. So as far as the elections date is concerned, I don’t see a radical change from the previous resolutions.

“But you must also realise that Sadc does not want to be seen to be interfering where court matters are involved so there is a catch 22 situation on the date. In terms of implementation, the message will remain that of insisting that reforms must be completed for the outcome to be respected across the national divide,” said Moyo.

He added that it is therefore critical that the political parties should iron out their differences on the issue internally before pinning their hopes on Sadc which will also face its limitations in terms of being perceived to be calling for the non-compliance with court orders.”

Theatre producer Daves Guzha was doubtful that Sadc would have come this far insisting on the reforms only to give in this last minute.

“Assuming that the MDC formations and Zanu PF agree on a way forward, I think Sadc still has to convince the world that everything is being done above board.”

Social commentator Phillip Pasirayi said the Supreme Court judgement is ultra vires the GPA which gave birth to the coalition government.

“The GPA is clear on the need for consensus among the GPA principals on setting the election date. President Mugabe cannot unilaterally set the election date, but should consult with PM Tsvangirai and the other  MDC formation led by Ncube, as spelled out in the GPA. So contrary to what some lawyers are telling us the correct position is that in this new dispensation which was ushered in by the GPA election dates are set by consensus by the three principals and not by Zanu-PF alone or by Zanu-PF through suspicious court process,” said Pasirayi.

He said as civil society they expected Sadc to stick to its original position that parties in the inclusive government in Zimbabwe should agree on an election date which is informed by progress in the implementation of media and security sector reforms.

“We also reiterate our calls for a more hands-on approach, a kind of interventionist strategy by the sub-regional body, Sadc, to save the situation from imploding.

“The stakes are high- the forthcoming election is going to be hotly contested because Zanu PF wants to regain its lost hegemony while the MDC believes it is their time to govern,” said Pasirayi.

He said as Zimbabweans there are questions we should ask as we interrogate the Supreme Court ruling on the forthcoming elections.

“Is the law what the courts say it is as we are being told? What if the courts are not competent and are a mere extension of the Zanu-PF party patronage politics?

“Can the decisions by these court processes still be considered as genuine law or this is now politics?”
Commentator Thomas Deve said the Sadc election roadmap was a mediation instrument designed to bring some semblance of normalcy in the country.

“And it now becomes difficult for Sadc to ignore the existence of some form of constitutionalism as this is the bedrock of liberal democracy.

“The judgement on elections opened a new chapter for Zimbabwean politics and observers have no option except to follow what the Constitution puts before us as guidelines and president Mugabe must oblige with the ruling or be condemned by the same Sadc.”

Social commentator Precious Shumba said Sadc has no option but to respect the decisions of the Constitutional Court of Zimbabwe, which is a creature of the GPA-led constitution-making exercise.

“The regional body’s reform path can only be revisited upon satisfying itself that the three parties are serious about going for elections, which Zanu PF is not ready for given that they have failed to produce election guidelines for its primary elections.

“Zimbabwe is above all the three political parties concerned, and they should give the nation a break from its ransom politics.

The best Sadc is likely to do is to acknowledge the steps taken by Zimbabwe’s GNU partners in ensuring democratic, free and fair elections are held in Zimbabwe without further delays.

“All the three parties have previously denounced the GNU as dysfunctional and only an election can settle this matter. All the three governing political parties have been in the inclusive government, and in the past four years, they should have prioritised reforms in the media and electoral conditions, but they wasted a lot of time testing each other’s powers and fighting useless power games,” said Shumba.

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