How Sadc felled Mugabe

HARARE - Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and leader of the smaller MDC Welshman Ncube told President Robert Mugabe in an explosive meeting of southern African leaders in Maputo on Saturday to stop blackmailing the people of Zimbabwe by forcing through a sham election.

The 89-year-old leader was embarrassed in Maputo, ironically the capital city of the country which provided shelter for Mugabe during the independence struggle.

Mugabe was also told a July 31 poll was a high-risk option that might paralyse Zimbabwe and end in economic disaster. High-level briefings to the Daily News yesterday revealed that Tsvangirai and Ncube, who reportedly conversed before the meeting, virtually roasted Mugabe and left him How Sadc felled Mugabe confused, apparently having been misled by his advisors.

Tsvangirai and Ncube were leading a high-powered pro-democracy delegation from Zimbabwe on a one-day visit to Maputo for a summit of the 15-nation Southern African Development Community (Sadc).

Mugabe walked into the summit with a spring in his step around 12 mid-day but left crest-fallen, after a damning summit resolution that observers said constituted a major political faux pas by Zanu PF hardliners that was damaging and embarrassing to the former guerrilla leader.

After South Africa President Jacob Zuma presented a report to the one-day summit on Zimbabwe’s readiness for elections, Mugabe was up next and he immediately launched into his now too familiar history lesson, beginning with the revolutionary struggle for one man, one vote, continuing to the Lancaster House agreement, proceeding to the betrayal of the British in failing to fund land reform compensation, and ending with sanctions.

In a trance-like monologue and speaking in a soft voice, the octogenarian gave reasons for unilaterally declaring the poll date.

Top government officials who attended the meeting said, slouching and frequently turning his body as if to find a better position, he would intermittently straighten up and speak in a louder voice for a few seconds before lapsing back into the barely audible soft voice, averring that Zimbabwe was democratic.

He is said to have won backing from Namibia President Hifikepunye Pohamba.

After making his presentation, the MDC leader was next.

Tsvangirai made a compelling case that there was certainly a risk that could paralyse efforts for a better Zimbabwe and deeper integration.

An official who attended the closed-door session said Tsvangirai made an “electric delivery” which was simple, straight forward, passionate, effective saying “he was clearly speaking from his heart”.

He reminded Mugabe that only on Tuesday in Cabinet, all political parties had agreed that that voter registration commenced on June 10 would be completed on July 10, 2013 and that the net effect of his proclamation was to infringe on the Constitutional provisions obliging the 30-day intense voter registration exercise.

He said by setting the Nomination Court on June 28, he was denying Zimbabweans two weeks of voter registration.

Tsvangirai told regional leaders that elections in Zimbabwe have never been about the date but the process and conditions under which it is held.

He said the poll date will be determined by the processes that have to be carried out to ensure a legitimate, credible and sustainable election.

He reminded regional leaders that this had also been reiterated in numerous resolutions of Sadc since the Dar es Salaam summit held on March 29, 2007 and as recent as June 1, 2012, at a Sadc summit in Luanda, which resolved that Zimbabwe was obliged to attend to reforms for a year to June 30, 2013 and that once those reforms were complete, the president and the prime minister would agree on a date for elections.

The MDC leader said Sadc has chaperoned the process over the last four-and-half years and had walked Zimbabwean principals through several summits.

Tsvangirai told the regional leaders that the problem was that he did not have a “bonafide partner.”

He said the problem in Zimbabwe was Mugabe’s unilateralism, and that he did not want to consult his partners in the coalition. Mugabe informed Tsvangirai of the proclamation through a letter.

“We were in Cabinet. He couldn’t write a letter over such an important matter,” Tsvangirai complained.

He told the regional leaders that the proclamation, coming hardly two days after sitting with Mugabe in Cabinet, vindicates his claim that he did not have an honest partner in Mugabe.

“All executive decisions must act in accordance with partners. We were together in Cabinet, and the next thing he ambushes us with an election date. What kind of sincerity is that, what kind of people are we dealing with?” Tsvangirai asked  a quiet summit.

He said right through all summits on Zimbabwe, “you have emphasised four things your excellencies.”

He listed the four things as a free and credible election, an agreed election roadmap, economic recovery and lifting of all sanctions; and finding a permanent and lasting solution to the Zimbabwe crisis.

 Tsvangirai spoke of legislative, media and security sector reforms “Wherever we have worked together, there has been economic recovery, where we lose it is when we do unilateral actions,” Tsvangirai said to a receptive contingent of regional leaders.

 At the end of his presentation, Tsvangirai asked Mugabe why it should be about power and not the people.

 “I respect the president, he is my president and my elder,” Tsvangirai said. “I want him to look me into my eye and tell me, is it about power or the people?

 Next up was Ncube, who reportedly floored Mugabe with erudite legal submissions.

 Ncube explained that the new Constitution requires that the new provisions for the Electoral Law be passed by Parliament and not made by regulation in terms of another Act such as the Presidential Powers (Temporary Measures) Act.

He said Zimbabwe does not write laws through presidential proclamations.

 He said the judgment of the Constitutional Court was against ruling by decree, yet Mugabe’s proclamation was a classical example of rule by decree.

 He said in issuing the election proclamation, the president did not act on the advice of Cabinet as laid down in the Constitution.  

 Complementing each other and starting almost every line with the phrase, “Just to add to what the PM has said...”

Ncube is said to have told the regional leaders that the parties still needed to negotiate and make the necessary amendments to the Public Order and Security Act (Posa), Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (Aippa), the Broadcasting Services Act , Section 121 of the Criminal Procedure and Evidence Act and other repressive laws.

 After the constitutional law expert’s landmark speech, Botswana President Ian Khama is said to have said: “Ah, ah, ah,Mr chairman, I think we should go to lunch and digest what we have heard.”

 The regional leaders broke for lunch and returned in the afternoon to debate the presentations from the Zimbabwe principals.

 Mugabe quickly conceded on the need for a fresh court application, saving the summit of further debate.

 But just before conceding, Patrick Chinamasa, Justice and Legal Affairs minister was seen frantically trying to drill Mugabe with advice but the Zanu PF leader was said to be shaking his head vigorously.

 Immediately after, Zuma’s recommendations were adopted with the net effect that Mugabe’s proclamation of elections made on Thursday was rendered null and void.

Government was ordered, through the Justice and Legal Affairs ministry, to make an application to the Constitutional Court following consultations by all political parties, seeking to move the date of the election from July 31.

 Legal experts say Mugabe has to approach the Constitutional Court, cap in hand, and seek a variation of the poll date, which he was likely to be granted.

Alternatively, the Con-Court could rule in favour of Nixon Nyikadzino, who has approached the same court protesting against a ruling in favour of Jealousy Mawarire directing that elections be held by July 31, to save him from further humiliation arising from the dramatic climb-down.

Mugabe, who was the first out of the summit, told reporters he was “happy” with the outcome of the meeting.

He confirmed Chinamasa was going to appeal against the ruling in line with Sadc’s instructions. - Gift Phiri, Political Editor

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