HARARE – President Robert Mugabe flies into a political storm from his nine-day visit to Japan, jetting in to face irate coalition partners unhappy with a Constitutional Court ruling directing that elections should be held by July 31.
While Mugabe has welcomed the Constitutional Court judgment — where seven of the nine judges ruled in favour of an application requiring the president to call elections immediately after the dissolution of Parliament whose term expires on June 29 — his coalition partners Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and Welshman Ncube have come out guns blazing, slamming the court ruling.
Tsvangirai said “the Supreme Court has no power whatsoever to set an election date”, adding that principals to the September 2008 power-sharing deal have a consultative mechanism where the election date would be agreed by the three political parties in the coalition government.
“This is what Sadc, the African Union and the people of Zimbabwe expect, not a date set under the cover of the Judiciary without a mechanism to ensure that issues of the election environment and reforms are addressed,” Tsvangirai said.
Ncube yesterday said he was “very worried” that the Constitutional Court, being the court which has been entrusted with the obligations to defend and protect Zimbabweans’ rights in the new Constitution, did not feel it necessary to protect and defend the rights of Zimbabweans who were supposed to be given a 30-day window to register by the new Constitution as voters.
Mugabe told reporters in Japan that he intends to abide by the court ruling in the interests of upholding constitutionalism.
“We accepted that judgment and we will work in accordance with that judgment,” Mugabe was quoted.
He rejected a four-month extension that Tsvangirai says is provided for under the new Constitution.
“I am not delaying anything,” Mugabe said.
“I will not accept that anymore. That’s their wish. We should forget this period and to forget it is to sink it by an election so we drown it out of our memory and say we will never do this again. It’s filthy, it’s filthy, it’s filthy,” he said.
Veritas, an independent legal research group has also weighed in, warning that the July election date was impractical, noting that the Constitution provides for the Executive and government ministries to continue operating without a sitting Parliament for up to four months after dissolution — which means polls can be held by October 29.
But away from poll dates, Zanu PF, which claims to have implemented the GPA, the foundation of the GNU, is also grappling with staging its own primary elections for the faction-torn party, amid reports the Women’s League is demanding a women-friendly selection process.
Mugabe is paralysed with the fear of the prospects of a repeat of another Bhora Musango strategy, where party supporters voted for a Zanu PF councillor and legislator but literally kicked the ball into the bush when it came to the presidential vote.
Amid a festering succession war within his party, Mugabe is next week expected to come face-to-face with regional leaders in Sadc — guarantors of the coalition government — who are also determined to ensure Zimbabwe goes to elections after the full implementation of the GPA to avert a repeat of another 2008-style vote.
Two interrelated issues, both of which will affect the timing of the poll, are likely to dominate Sunday’s Sadc summit — reforms and funding for the poll.
Zimbabwe has requested over $130 million to finance the elections.
South African President Jacob Zuma, whose government had promised to bankroll the country’s general elections, is an advocate for the full implementation of the GPA, a stance which has angered many in Zanu PF.
The former ruling party has been resisting media and security sector reforms saying a new Constitution that was passed resoundingly in a referendum in March and signed into law by Mugabe last month is the only necessary reform before polls.
With the Supreme Court having given Mugabe a blank cheque to declare dates for elections, Tsvangirai and Ncube are hoping that the Sadc extraordinary summit will resolve the unfolding crisis.