Court ruling: Disservice to democracy

HARARE - It is clear that President Robert Mugabe now treats Sadc with utmost contempt.

He chose to travel to Japan to attend the 5th Tokyo International Conference on Africa Development.

And yet he has found some excuse for not attending a crucial Sadc meeting that was scheduled for Maputo last weekend.

The Tokyo conference may have been an important event. Mugabe held bilateral talks with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to resume co-operation between the two countries.

Mugabe also met representatives of Japanese companies who, we are told, expressed interest in investing in Zimbabwe on a larger scale. All good.

However, the Maputo summit held far more significance to the future of Zimbabwe than the Tokyo conference.
The investment that Mugabe wants will depend on legitimate electoral processes that will make Zimbabwe part of the community of nations once again.

Economic development and politics are not mutually exclusive.

The conduct of local politics has been wrong for a long time, the reason the Japanese themselves had stayed away.

The duty of righting the politics was reposed in Sadc. Yet Mugabe could not find a day to attend the Maputo summit.

It may sound unpalatable to Zanu PF but MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai is right in stating that Zimbabwe surrendered part of its sovereignty when Sadc became involved as facilitator or mediator in our conflict.

In fact, Zimbabwe did so the moment the signature was appended to the constitutive document to affirm its membership to the regional constellation. I have argued this point before.

Sadc has its rules; violation of such norms invites consequences. Zimbabwe joined Sadc voluntarily.
The option is, of course, to go against the grain of regionalism and supranationalism; sever ties with every entity, the UN, the AU, Sadc, IMF and so on. That way, Mugabe and Zanu PF can enjoy absolute sovereignty they yearn for.

That, of course, is an inconceivable proposition. Mugabe and Zanu PF are political antiques in a new world; they fail to balance the realities of the prevailing international order and national interests.

Thus, the rhetoric on sovereignty is emotive rather than realistic.

It is possible to rebuff an entity like the Commonwealth with minimal consequences.

But contempt towards substantive bodies such as the ones cited above, including Sadc, will have repercussions.  

Mugabe has demonstrated contempt towards Sadc.

Yet a dispassionate look would suggest he is in a stronger position following the Constitutional Court ruling ordering him to set an election date before July 31.

Sadc finds itself in a quandary.

Notwithstanding the motives behind the lawsuit against Mugabe and merits or demerits of the ruling, it is difficult to see how Sadc could or can overrule the decision of a national court.

It would be seen as going against the “rule of law”, perhaps the motive behind this lawsuit in the first place.

It is rare and, of course, curious to see Mugabe and Zanu PF welcome a court decision going against them.  
For once, we hear Mugabe vowing to abide by the rule of law.

Nonetheless, even if this ruling lacks merit in this new era of diminished statehood, supranationalism has its limits when it comes to legal matters.

The Constitutional Court ruling represents the unfortunate judicialisation of politics.

Given the pending political processes before a truly free and fair election can be held, the Constitutional Court has, through its ruling, disserved democracy.

Elections alone may not constitute democracy but form a central plank of it.

There is now a real prospect of holding the elections without prerequisite reforms for free and fair elections, apart from the registration of all potential voters.  

The situation leaves the MDC in a pickle. After being sucked into the rigmarole of constitutional reform, it left crucial reforms that have real impact on electoral outcomes to the last minute.

Sadc’s hands are now tied, and the time, limited.

Mugabe may decide elections are not feasible by July 31.

Zanu PF has not even held its own primaries. But what options does MDC have if Mugabe goes ahead?

It may boycott the elections or go into them disadvantaged and as a party which, after five years in government, failed to effect important reforms.

Both are not simple choices. - Conrad Nyamutata

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