HARARE – Like we predicted in one of our published articles, President Robert Mugabe skirted last week’s Maputo Sadc meeting so that he could arm himself with an election date.
And true to form, Mugabe this week threw the bombshell, declaring July 31 as the polling crunch date.
Using presidential powers, Mugabe sidestepped Parliament and has set June 28 as the date for the nomination of aspiring candidates.
Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai has been breathing fire since Mugabe’s proclamation of July 31 as the date for harmonised elections.
This weekend, Mugabe and Tsvangirai will square it off in Maputo where Sadc is set to meet them as the African bloc maps the political impasse that has the potential to discredit the much anticipated harmonised elections.
Among other deliberations, Sadc will review Zimbabwe’s Global Political Agreement, GPA, the elections roadmap and poll funding.
On the other hand, Sadc has for the past four years been demanding media and security reforms before any credible elections could be held — without any success.
But with the announcement of July 31 as the poll date by Mugabe, who has justified this basing on a recent Constitutional Court ruling that there be elections on or before that date, there is no room for any reforms.
What then for Sadc? Will it go along with Mugabe’s July 31 date or factor in Tsvangirai’s concerns and move the date?
And remember that Sadc’s fight is led by South African President Jacob Zuma who has been appointed facilitator to the Zimbabwe crisis.
He too is said to be breathing fire at Mugabe’s announcement of the July 31 date.
So where to, from here?
Playwright Leonard Matsa said it is not only Tsvangirai and Zimbabweans who have been waylaid by the “staged” Jealousy Mawarire constitutional case because Sadc might be feeling that they too belong in this category of victims.
He said everyone was now looking forward to the weekend Sadc meeting.
“It is Sadc that legitimised President Robert Mugabe after the 2008 contested elections and today he is wagging the sovereign card in their face.
“And just like in 2008, Mugabe always makes sure he goes to Sadc with an advanced position, as he can.
“In 2008 he quickly got himself sworn in and went to AU as president.
“In 2013, today he goes already with a date announced.”
He added that “what is clear is that Sadc will not recommend an election that smells contestable from the word go, otherwise it makes mockery of their efforts since 2008.
“The whole world is watching Sadc and Sadc know this. And Sadc also has precedence to worry about. It’s game on.”
Legislator Jessie Majome said it is hard to predict what Sadc would say about the July 31 election date.
“But it should be clear to it that the judgment is a political ploy to subvert the GPA roadmap, masquerading as a legal dispute resolution. It is impossible to comply with it in a constitutional manner because numerous other provisions of the same Constitution equally demand fulfilment before the elections,” said Majome.
Media practitioner Rashweat Mukundu said Sadc has no power to change that date, but it has moral and regional leverage to nudge Mugabe on this matter.
“Whether this results in a change of election dates or not is another matter.
“Essentially Sadc stands between Mugabe and an international community that is concerned about human rights violations and economic destruction of Zimbabwe by Zanu PF, in this regard it will be foolhardy for Mugabe to ignore Sadc.
“The issue is not so much the date of the election but practicalities of having a credible election within this short period.
“Mugabe is simply taking Zimbabwe back to another disputed poll hence drag the whole country back into deeper malaise socially and economically,” said Mukundu.
Pan African activist Thomas Deve said Mugabe wants to meet Sadc having put in lots of things that will make Sadc look stupid legally if they stick to their brokered reform process.
“The MDC must now shout out loud and clear that they are willing to confront Zanu PF head on and complete the final push project or forever remain in limbo as crybabies whenever they see president Zuma and his counterparts,” said Deve.
He said the nation should not be held at ransom by the reform agenda as this will not eliminate all the inadequacies that have been identified in our political system.
“The Zanu PF section of the GNU is scoring maximum points in terms of using the legal route to fix election dates and related processes while the MDC formations are busy politicking using the Sadc roadmap.
“We cannot count on a subcontracted process of struggle to bring the ultimate liberation which will be meaningful for citizens of this country,” said Deve.
Mukundu said Mugabe has no answer to Sadc’s demands for a transparent election programme and demands for reforms before elections as his whole election plan is based on ambushing his opponents as what happened with this Constitutional ruling.
“Mugabe is thinking of a way out of Sadc’s shackles by putting forward the court case, but the court ruling refers to a date and has nothing to do with conditions which he must meet,” said Mukundu.
Social commentator Phillip Pasirayi said the strategy is also to put Sadc under pressure and create the impression that all is well, the parties are working together.
“So Zanu PF is likely to maintain this line of argument at Sadc and accuse its coalition partners of being dishonest and wanting to subvert the country’s legal processes.”
Playwright Cont Mhlanga said he has always said that the focus must be on a free and fair election and not on the election date.
“Lessons learned from 2008 taught us that the country needs political reforms to achieve this. I respect judges but in this case, they are just part of the Zanu PF scheme of things to disturb the country from having a free and fair election,” said Mhlanga.
He said this push by Zanu PF to have elections before political reforms confirms to Zimbabweans that Zanu PF is convinced to the bone that they cannot win a free and fair election.
Mhlanga said more Zanu PF tricks are on the way in the next weeks.
He added that Sadc and every one should stand by the required results, that is a free and fair election for Zimbabwe no matter how long the delay.
“Let us remember that we are in this inclusive government because of disputed elections after Zanu PF was thrashed in the last election to the point that they got so scared to vacate the state house.
“Anything that does not lead the nation to free and fair elections should be thrown out by the way side,” said Mhlanga.
He said it is both interesting and funny that in this case Zanu PF speaks of abiding by the court judgment, “but how many other court judgments have they ignored since getting into power in 1980?
“It is frightening to see such a great liberation political party so terrified by a free and fair election to the point of reducing itself to a hot air balloon.”