Mugabe buckles under pressure

HARARE - President Robert Mugabe has succumbed to regional pressure as Justice minister Patrick Chinamasa yesterday filed a Constitutional Court application for the extension of election dates to August 14.

The development not only follows the Southern African Development Community (Sadc)’s directive that the July 31 date was “impractical”, but also dashes Zanu PF’s hopes for stampeding the country into a possibly disputed election.

Led by facilitator and South African President Jacob Zuma, the regional bloc’s leaders directed Mugabe to go back to Zimbabwe’s highest court for an extension of the key dates.

With Chinamasa citing Centre for Elections and Democracy in South Africa (CEDSA) founder Jealousy Mawarire, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, Arthur Mutambara, Welshman Ncube and Attorney General Johannes Tomana as respondents, the Zanu PF legal point-man wants a postponement of the harmonised presidential, legislative and municipal elections.

And the Sadc petition not only super-cedes CEDSA’s Supreme Court victory, but also exposes Zanu PF’s aura invincibility.

In the application filed on an ordinary basis contrary to Sadc’s directive that it should be urgent, Chinamasa said the proceedings came up after Tsvangirai and Ncube lobbied Sadc to intervene after Mugabe’s unilateral election date proclamation.

“During the proceedings at the said summit, I in particular, was directed to make an urgent application before this Honourable Court to seek a postponement of the date for the harmonised general elections from the 31st of July, to the 14th of August 2013,’’Chinamasa said in the application.

“In my view…and in my capacity as the minister responsible for the administration of the Electoral Act, I pray for the extension of elections to the 14th of August 2013.”

Chinamasa, among other documents attached a copy of a letter written to Zuma by Tsvangirai, Mavambo Kusile Dawn’s Simba Makoni, Zapu’s Dumiso Dabengwa, Welshman Ncube of the smaller MDC and Reketai Semwayo of Zanu Ndonga, outlining a raft of demands for a credible, free and fair election.

“It will be noted that one of the important political parties in the GPA, Zanu PF was not listed as one of the parties whose views were considered. Furthermore, it will be noted that the judgment was not part of the list of annexures to the Facilitator’s Report to the Sadc summit,” Chinamasa further said.

The Extraordinary Summit was convened two days after the octogenarian leader used Presidential Powers (Temporary Measures) Act, and unilaterally declared July 31 as the date for presidential and parliamentary elections, a date vehemently rejected by Tsvangirai, his partner and fierce rival in the coalition government, and Ncube.

Mugabe is said to have told the summit that he made the proclamation in a bid to abide by the ruling of the highest court in the land, and that Parliament expires on June 29.

He reportedly said he did not want to rule by decree for too long after the term of the legislature expires.

However, his coalition partner Tsvangirai told regional leaders that Mugabe did not secure consensus from him as outlined by the Global Political Agreement (GPA), and that Mugabe’s poll timetable made it impossible to complete reforms in the pro-Mugabe police and military widely blamed for State-orchestrated violence in previous elections and also implementing reforms in a partisan State-controlled media.

Ncube, a constitutional law expert, gave a plain and simple explanation on the unconstitutionality of Mugabe’s proclamation, saying the 89-year-old leader had no power under the country’s Constitution to call for elections without the approval of Cabinet.

Meanwhile, a group of political parties led by the MDC’s were yesterday expected to hold a Maputo de-briefing meeting where debate over an anti-Mugabe coalition was expected to take centre stage. - Tendai Kamhungira

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