Mugabe triggers war over elections
PRESIDENT Robert Mugabe yesterday triggered a potentially explosive
political battle with his coalition government partners after proclaiming
dates for general elections as July 31 following the controversial use of
the draconian Presidential Powers (Temporary Measures) Act to truncate the
electoral process by legally dubious means.
Report by Brian Chitemba
His confrontational manoeuvres and resultant political storm came on the eve
of the crucial Sadc summit in Maputo, Mozambique, to discuss Zimbabwe’s
political and security situation, particularly to review the Global
Political Agreement (GPA), attendant roadmap and poll funding ahead of the
Mugabe wrote to Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and Industry and Commerce
minister Welshman Ncube, unilaterally informing them elections will be held
on July 31, while saying he was implementing a recent controversial
Constitutional Court (Concourt) order.
“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 June 28 2013 as the date for the nomination
of aspiring candidates and July 31 2013 as the date for holding polls,”
Mugabe said in his letter.
“This proclamation has been preceded by the enactment of the Electoral
Amendments that were approved by cabinet on 11 June 2013.
Given the need to comply with the deadline for elections as imposed upon me
by the Constitutional Court judgment, it became inexpedient to await the
passage through parliament of the electoral (Act).”
He also said in the event that no one wins the first round of the
presidential election, the run-off will be held on September 11 after the
United Nations World Tourism Organisation conference in Victoria Falls from
August 24 to 29.
In a move which disregarded Tuesday’s collective cabinet decisions, Mugabe
used the authoritarian powers of decree to by-pass a parliamentary process
which was supposed to amend the Electoral Act to include issues related to
the registration of voters, a code of conduct for political parties,
candidates participating in elections, a system of proportional
representation for senators and seats reserved for women, disabled senators
and members of the newly introduced provincial councils.
Tsvangirai immediately rejected Mugabe’s unilateral proclamation of
elections dates, saying it was “a clear, flagrant and fraudulent breach of
our constitution”. He vowed to fight Mugabe’s bid to railroad the nation
into elections before full implementation of critical reforms as outlined in
Mugabe’s manoeuvres are also facing stiff resistance from other political
parties and the issue is expected to dominate the Sadc summit tomorrow.
Mugabe gazetted Statutory Instrument 85 of 2013 amending the Electoral Act
in a situation he said was necessitated by urgency and public interest. He
said he used the controversial Presidential Powers (Temporary Measures) Act
to comply with the Concourt judgment of May 31 which ordered him to proclaim
dates for elections by not later than July 31.
Law experts said the use of Presidential Powers to amend electoral laws was
unconstitutional since Section 157(1) states that only an Act of Parliament
can be used.
Mugabe used his contentious powers to unilaterally amend the Electoral Act
and include a provision which extends the voter registration exercise by 12
days after nomination day.
Initially, Section 26A of the Electoral Act 2:13 provided that voter
registration was supposed to be finalised 24 hours before the nomination
court sits after which the constitution required that 44 days elapse between
the proclamation of election dates and polling day.
Mugabe used his sweeping powers to repeal Section 26A and insert a new
provision for the closure of the voters’ roll 12 days after nomination day
in a bid to fit the processes within the July 31 deadline.
“No person shall be registered as a voter for the purposes of voting at any
Presidential election or election of members of the National Assembly or
councillors unless he or she lodges a claim for registration or transfer of
registration under Section 24 or 25 no later than 12 days after the
nomination day fixed in terms of a proclamation referred to in Section 28 or
a notice referred to in Section 39, as the case may be, in relation to that
election,” the amendment says.
The MDC formations expected the elections would be held by August 25 given
that the mandatory mobile voter registration which began on June 10 was
supposed to end on July 9, after which the proclamation of elections dates
would have been on July 10. The constitution provides that the nomination
court can only sit between 14 and 21 days of the proclamation, meaning the
date that was expected for the court to sit was July 24, not June 28 as
Mugabe arbitrarily set.
As the new constitution provides for a minimum 30-day period of campaigning
to a maximum of 42 days before polling day, it meant after the July 24
nomination, elections could only have been held at least on August 25.
But Mugabe used the Concourt ruling and his powers of decree to stampede the
nation into elections, something he had failed to achieve since 2011.