July 31 election unviable: Zuma

HARARE - South African President Jacob Zuma says the July 31 poll date ordered by the Constitutional Court is impractical, unless key reforms to ensure free and fair elections are implemented to avoid a repeat of the bloody 2008 poll.

Mugabe had rushed to use the Presidential Powers Act to unilaterally proclaim July 31 as the date for elections without consulting partners in the coalition government as demanded by the Global Political Agreement (GPA).

This emerged in Zuma’s report tabled before the Maputo summit of regional leaders on Saturday, and which proved to be the killer-punch against Mugabe as it swayed opinion.
 
The Daily News is in possession of the report.

Zuma, the Sadc-appointed mediator to the Zimbabwean crisis, read the riot act on Mugabe in a scathing report that among other issues calls for the Zimbabwean leader to publicly call to order army chiefs and amend repressive pieces of legislation such as the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (Aippa) and the Public Order and Security Act before the country goes to fresh polls.

The Sadc mediator was responding to concerns raised by Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and Industry and Commerce minister Welshman Ncube in a damning letter fired off to him ahead of the summit.

The letter read: “Considering what still needs to be done to create conditions for free and fair elections, and a level playing field for the campaign period, we are concerned with the practicality of 31 July, 2013 deadline as set by our Constitutional Court”, adding “the proposal to hold elections on 31 July, 2013 is fraught with legal contestation, political dispute and heightened tensions.”

Mugabe last week caught his coalition partners, Tsvangirai and Ncube unawares by unilaterally declaring that elections would be held on July 31, in compliance with the Constitutional Court ruling and in the process throwing the country into turmoil.

However, Zuma, whose facilitation team has been working overtime to create ideal conditions for free and fair elections, said Mugabe cannot impose his views on coalition partners as this would only cause chaos ahead of crunch polls.

With Tsvangirai and Ncube challenging Mugabe’s envisaged poll date, Zuma said, “It would not be helpful for all these issues to remain contentious issues which are requiring resolutions in the courtrooms.

“It would be more constructive if the three parties with the assistance of the facilitator and support of Sadc, quickly resolve these matters with due regard to the practical realities and the rule of law."

To create a conducive stage for the impending harmonised elections, Zuma said there is need to assure crisis weary Zimbabweans that such “elections shall be held under conditions where all parties shall participate freely, on equal footing, in an environment free of intimidation and violence.”

The South African leader, who has become the nemesis of Zanu PF since assuming the mediator’s role on Zimbabwe, touched a raw nerve when he called upon Mugabe as the commander of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces to impress upon service chiefs to observe the rule of law.

“It would be appropriate and necessary that the President (Mugabe) draws the attention of the heads of the security forces, their members, as well as the public of Zimbabwe to the new constitution,” he said adding that, “It is important that this is done publicly so that members of the security forces as well as the public are made aware of these requirements.”

Service chiefs have vowed not to allow persons without liberation war credentials to take power even if popularly elected but now seem cornered by Sadc.

With tensions boiling over in the fractious coalition as the dispute is played out in the courts, Tsvangirai and Ncube insist elections should be process-driven and have the backing of Zuma who in his report says there is need to embrace a peaceful route towards polls.

“The challenge we face...is to take up a position that will bring the parties together in order to minimise these tensions and carve out a roadmap that is realistic, that meets the concerns of the different parties, and reassure the citizens of Zimbabwe through a process of accommodation,” said Zuma.

In 2011, Sadc rolled out an election roadmap for Zimbabwe that among other things called for security sector and media reforms but Zanu PF has refused to implement the reforms arguing that a new constitution that was signed into law by Mugabe last month, is the only necessary and agreed reform among bickering coalition partners.

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