Zim plunges into crisis

HARARE - President Robert Mugabe yesterday controversially raced to enact changes to electoral laws, invoking presidential powers to sidestep Parliament ostensibly in a move to meet a Constitutional Court deadline to go for polls by July 31.

“In my capacity as President of the Republic of Zimbabwe, I hereby inform you that I have today issued a proclamation calling for the holding of harmonised elections and fixing 28 June as the date for the nomination of aspiring candidates and 31 July as the date for holding of polls,” Mugabe said in a government notice dated June 13.

“This proclamation has been preceded by the enactment of the Electoral Amendments that were approved by Cabinet on 11 June 2013.”

The move immediately drew condemnation from Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and his MDC party which branded the use of Presidential Powers “unilateral",  "illegal” and “unconstitutional.”

In a strongly-worded statement, Tsvangirai yesterday said: “Today, early in the morning, I received a letter from President Mugabe dated 13 June 2013, in which he advised that in purported compliance with the Constitutional Court judgment, he was proclaiming the 28th of June 2013 as the sitting of the nomination court and the 31st July as the election day,” Tsvangirai told a midday news conference yesterday.

Tsvangirai said the poll must be delayed by up to four months from June 29,  the day Parliament expires to allow for reform of the media and security sector.

Mugabe is insisting on a fresh poll in compliance with the July 31 deadline set by the Constitutional Court, saying the tenuous inclusive government has run its course.

“Given the deadline imposed by the Constitutional Court, it is inexpedient to await the passage through Parliament of an act dealing with the situation,” Mugabe said in the government notice.

The amended Electoral Act obliges the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission to declare presidential election results not more than five days after the day of voting, gives equal access to the State media for all political contestants and also bars police officers — who were accused in the 2008 poll of abusing their power to help disabled or illiterate voters to cast their ballots — from “taking part or interfering with the electoral process beyond maintaining law and order.”

Zec is also empowered to warn election candidates, election agents or parties implicated in acts of political violence and to set up special courts to hear such cases.

Under the gazetted Electoral Act, voter registration will continue for 30 days, and will only close after the Nomination Court sits.

Mugabe amended Section 26A of Electoral act to continue voter registration until July 9.

Welshman Ncube’s MDC said it was sad that presidential powers had been called up.

“The net effect of this is that an election date has been proclaimed,” said spokesperson for Ncube’s MDC Nhlanhla Dube.

“The elections are now set for July 31. The Sadc summit which will be held this coming weekend has been presented with a fait accompli.”

Regional leaders convene an extraordinary heads of State and government summit in Maputo tomorrow to discuss funding for the Zimbabwe election and the state of preparedness for a fresh poll.

Trust Maanda of the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights said the president cannot have extraordinary powers that allow him to operate outside the constitutional provisions and that although the Presidential Powers (Temporary Measures) affords him certain powers, he does not have all powers.

But Lovemore Madhuku, a constitutional law expert, said there was nothing unconstitutional about Mugabe invoking presidential powers to enact an Act of Parliament.

 “It’s perfectly constitutional,” Madhuku told the Daily News. “They are relying on provisions of the new Constitution which will not be in force until a new president takes office. The rest of the provisions of what Parliament can do can only comes after the effective date. Everything is governed by the old constitution. Tsvangirai’s problem, is that he is seeking legal opinion from his office. He must seek opinion from people from a disinterested distance.”

Madhuku said even if Mugabe’s actions were unconstitutional, “the only court that can determine the unconstitutionality of his actions is the Constitutional Court, which has already passed judgment.
“So it becomes a political argument rather than a legal one,” Madhuku said.

“So there is no infringement of the Constitution,” he added.

He urged all political parties to start preparing for polls by July 31 instead of arguing about the constitutionality of Mugabe’s decree, and said they should push for reforms in the media and the security sector “to ensure the playing field is levelled.”

Madhuku said there was a Catch-22 situation.

“There are two evils. It’s a clear evil not to obey judgment of the Constitutional Court, it’s also a clear evil to infringe provisions of the Constitution.

“Between the two evils, it’s better to comply with the court, we want the court principle for the future. We can’t throw away the baby with the bath water.” - Gift Phiri, Political Editor

Post a comment

Readers are kindly requested to refrain from using abusive, vulgar, racist, tribalistic, sexist, discriminatory and hurtful language when posting their comments on the Daily News website.
Those who transgress this civilised etiquette will be barred from contributing to our online discussions.
- Editor

Your email address will not be shared.