HARARE – Zimbabwe’s perennially toxic political climate seemingly took a turn for the worse on Friday when the Constitutional Court ordered President Robert Mugabe to hold the country’s much anticipated harmonised elections before the end of next month.
The ruling by Chief Justice Godfrey Chidyausiku and his colleagues at the apex court, on an application by one Jealousy Mawarire who was demanding that Mugabe sets an election date before the current Parliament expires later this month, dovetailed with Mugabe’s and Zanu PF’s thinking on the matter.
Barring any further political arm-wrestling within the country’s tottering unity government, this means that Mugabe will announce the election date within the next few weeks to meet the July 31 deadline — even though the country is still to undertake the new 30-day voter registration exercise recently announced by the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec), as well as source the $132 million needed for the poll.
Interestingly, the Constitutional Court ruling comes as Sadc is scheduled to meet at a special Zimbabwe summit in Maputo this week, to discuss Zimbabwe’s election reform.
While Zanu PF is elated at the court decision, the MDCs argue that fresh elections after the bloody and disputed polls of 2008, which led to the formation of the power-sharing government, should be delayed to allow necessary reforms.
But we are where we are. Particularly when this is seen in the context that the court ruling limits the former opposition’s legal and political options on the one hand, while giving some modicum of respectability and legitimacy to the Zanu PF quest to railroad everybody towards ill-advised early elections.
There is also an unwitting silver lining to Chidyausiku’s ruling, and this is that Zimbabwe is set to co-host the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) conference in August — meaning that the full glare of the international community will be focused on our nation.
That is very good news, no matter how one looks at the matter.
It also means that if the elections do take place before then, it is very unlikely that the announcement of election results will be delayed suspiciously as happened in 2008 when Mugabe was trounced by MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai in the first round of the presidential poll.
In that sense then, Mugabe and his former ruling party, Zanu PF, have made their bed and will now have to lie in it.
It also means that as undesirable as the Constitutional Court ruling may appear to them at the present moment, the MDCs may need to look at this as a gift horse which they must not look in the mouth.
However, all this should not distract the nation from the indisputable fact that it is patently wrong — and undesirable — for courts to set election dates in a democracy.
But then again, Zimbabwe is certainly not a democracy by any measure and stretch of the imagination.
The problem with the Constitutional Court ruling on this matter is that it begets the key question: What next with this dangerous precedent?
Indeed, will the courts in future decide who will have won elections, and to what effect on our much traumatised nation? – Staff Writer