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Mugabe pushes poll dates via back door
Gagare, The Independent (Zimbabwe)
March 28, 2013
In an opportunistic
move set to trigger a political storm ahead of crucial general elections,
President Robert Mugabe is making back-door manoeuvres through the
High Court to secure an order declaring polls be held by or on June
29, as Zanu PF increasingly sweats over its uncertain political
past week Mugabe and his Zanu PF officials have been strenuously
for elections to be held by June 29, citing constitutional and
legal grounds - dismissed by their political rivals and lawyers
as expedient intrigues.
Zanu PF insiders
say Mugabe and his loyalists now desperately want polls by June
as fears mount the 89-year old leader, who recently made a veiled
admission to growing senility and frailty, might struggle to sustain
rigorous election campaigns.
In terms of
the Global Political
Agreement (GPA) and elections roadmap, Mugabe is required to
proclaim election dates in consultation with Prime Minister Morgan
of the on-going case of three by-elections in Matabeleland in which
he is expected to proclaim dates by Sunday, Mugabe has filed an
urgent application in the High Court seeking, in effect, to be excused
from proclaiming the dates for the by-elections by March 31 as directed
by Judge-President, Justice George Chiweshe on October 2 last year.
a Supreme Court order initially directing Mugabe to proclaim by-election
dates by August 30 last year.
application, through Justice minister Patrick Chinamasa, is due
to be heard by Chiweshe at the High Court in Harare today at 10
in the application, following the “Yes” vote in the
March 16 constitutional
referendum, parliament is expected to finish passing the new
constitution by May 8 after which a proclamation on general elections
will be gazetted immediately.
anticipated that this stage of the process will be completed by
May 8 2013 and a proclamation for harmonised elections will be published
thereafter,” Chinamasa says.
of the constitution, the life of parliament
terminates on the June 29 2013 by which date harmonised elections
must be held in the country.”
argues it does not make “economic or practical sense”
to hold by-elections at about the same time it is anticipated to
hold general elections.
for the above reasons that the applicant (Mugabe) seeks this honourable
court’s indulgence to be excused from performance of the order
requiring applicant to publish a proclamation of by-elections in
the three constituencies by March 31 2013, on condition that the
applicant ensures that harmonised elections are held by June 29
2013,” he says.
goes further to seek an interim order for Mugabe which should say:
“That the applicant (Mugabe) be and is hereby excused from
performance of the order granted in case No. 11222 of 2012 provided
that harmonised elections are held on or before the June 29 2013”.
who was in charge of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission in 2008,
grants Mugabe the order sought, this would mean the veteran politician
and Zanu PF would secure general elections dates by June 29 through
the courts, but effectively via the political backdoor.
claims that elections must be held on June 29, but according to
Section 58 (1) of the current constitution, polls can be held four
months after the date of dissolution of parliament, meaning they
can be pushed back as far as October 29.
old age and health problems, this is not helpful to Zanu PF.
Veritas, a lawyers’
grouping that specialises in monitoring parliamentary activities,
yesterday said Chinamasa’s claims that because parliament
ends on June 29 elections should be held by that date were wrong.
is no law that says the elections must be held by June 29,”
the group said, citing Section 58 of the current constitution. “Section
58 (1) of the present constitution
allows four months for elections to be held after parliament comes
to an end and the new constitution does not lay down a period within
which the first election must be held.”
In his founding
affidavit, Chinamasa says Mugabe could not proclaim by-elections
dates by March 31 because of political processes underway ahead
of polls. He says following the adoption of the new constitution,
there would be need to gazette a Constitutional Amendment Bill at
least 30 days before it is introduced in parliament for debate by
the Lower House and Senate over four days.
He says following
adoption of the new constitution, there would have to be amendments
to the Electoral
Act to “usher in the electoral process”.
MDC leader Welshman
Ncube, also a constitutional law professor, yesterday said Mugabe
was trying to manipulate the courts to order that elections be held
by June 29 “through the back door.
are seeking a court order which, instead of postponing the date
by which they are supposed to proclaim the dates for the by-elections,
will direct that general elections must be held by June 29,”
said Ncube. “This is a dishonest and manipulative application
which seeks to foist elections dates on Zimbabweans through the
Ncube said Mugabe
and Chinamasa’s plans would not work because political and
electoral processes, guided by the constitution, law and negotiations,
would not allow that. Ncube said even if the new constitution is
adopted by May 8, Mugabe could not proclaim general elections dates
immediately after as there are 30 days needed for voters’
registration before poll dates are announced.
He said in terms
of the constitution, proclamation and voter registration cannot
be done concurrently. Besides, Ncube said there must be 58 days
between proclamation of election dates and the actual voting. “All
these things combined make it impossible to have general elections
by or on June 29,” he said. “If courts order that, there
will be a political crisis which will make things even more complicated.”
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