Sadc corners Mugabe

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HARARE – Southern African leaders yesterday directed President Robert Mugabe to go back to the Constitutional Court to seek a variation of the July 31 poll date after noting that it will be impossible to have elections by that date.

Regional leaders gathered for a summit of the 15-nation Southern African Development Community (Sadc) in the Mozambican capital, Maputo heard Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and Welshman Ncube, leader of the smaller MDC, tear Mugabe’s contrived legal case for elections on July 31.

The extraordinary summit was convened two days after the octogenarian leader 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 in the next two weeks.

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

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.

For 40 minutes, Ncube shredded Mugabe for precipitating a political and constitutional crisis by unilaterally calling for polls.

He also railed against the veteran ruler’s invocation of special presidential powers to by-pass Parliament and fast-track changes to the Electoral Act before unilaterally declaring the poll date.

At the end of his presentation, Ncube reportedly looked at Mugabe and said: “We ask you to act as our President, Zimbabwe’s President, not a Zanu PF president.”

 The Sadc summit, postponed by a week on Mugabe’s request, received a progress report on the facilitation process from South Africa president Jacob Zuma, outlining what needs to be done before the election, including aligning laws to the new Constitution and completing media and security sector reforms.

Tsvangirai yesterday said he was glad with the outcome of the summit.

“Sadc has adopted the facilitator’s report and also listened to the presentation by the principals,” Tsvangirai’s spokesperson Luke Tamborinyoka told the Daily News on Sunday.

“Sadc has insisted that the minister of Justice should approach the court to tell them of the impracticality of the judgment. Sadc also insisted on implementation of media and security sector reforms and that amendments (to the Electoral Act) go through parliament. We are happy that summit has prevailed.
Sadc was very clear that the conditions are important than the date.”

The regional leaders also emphasised that Zimbabweans must elect leaders of their choice in a free and fair environment.

Ncube said: “All the parties have agreed that the minister of Justice will approach the Constitutional Court and request that the election be held on 14 August.

“The summit also adopted president Zuma’s report which insists on the implementation of the agreed roadmap before elections are held. We would like to thank Sadc for standing firm.”

 While Chinamasa was unreachable for comment, a senior Zanu PF official claimed that the regional bloc has upheld the Constitutional Court judgment that Zimbabwe must vote on July 31, and advised parties that if there were disagreements they must approach the Constitutional Court to seek for a variation.

“The Sadc leaders were clear that it will be up to the courts to decide,” said the senior Zanu PF official, who declined to be named saying he was not authorised to speak to the press. – Gift Phiri, Political Editor

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