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  • A date with Mugabe: The timing of the next general election
    Derek Matyszak, Research and Advocacy Unit
    April 04, 2013

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    Since the advent of the Inclusive Government (popularly known as the Government of National Unity – GNU) there has been considerable confusion over when the next general election will be held. The confusion has been compounded by various inaccurate claims as to what Zimbabwe’s Constitution does and does not mandate in this regard. The most recent addition to the many conflicting pronouncements, all of which claim to be authoritative on the matter, appeared as a comment in the ZANU PF controlled Herald daily newspaper.The editorial averred that a new Parliament must be elected before the 29th June, 2013 and that a failure to do so would be “unconstitutional” and would sully the fact that “one of our proudest traditions is consistently holding elections as and when they were due”. In so doing The Herald echoed statements to a similar effect made by others, most notably the Minister of Justice, Patrick Chinamasa.

    Elections Two Years From The Start of the GNU?

    From the commencement of the GNU on 11th February 2009 a central part of the MDC-T’s political rhetoric was to portray the GNU as a transitional arrangement, pending the adoption of a new constitution, which would lead to free and fair elections thereafter. The Inter-Party Political Agreement (popularly known as the Global Political Agreement – GPA) set a 19 - 20 month timetable for the constitution making process. Accordingly, in this scheme of things, the transitional government would last approximately two years. For this reason it came to be assumed that the GNU had a two year life span. In fact, the GPA provides a start date – the day of signature – and no end date. The existence of the GNU and GPA are coterminous. Thus the GNU likewise has no specified end date.

    The GPA, despite assertions to the contrary, contained no requirement that elections were to be held once the constitution making process was completed. Furthermore, the GPA also does not provide that the GNU is to be a transitional arrangement terminating after the creation of democratic conditions leading to free and elections. It was merely implicit that the GNU would come to an end with the next general election.

    Notwithstanding the opened ended nature of the GNU, in June 2010, an article appeared on ZANU PF’s website titled “Elections Inevitable”, maintaining that there was no reason why Zimbabwe should not go to the polls “when the Inclusive Government expires next year”. The annual ZANU PF National People’s Conference of December that year resolved that “at the expiry of the term of the global political agreement with two MDC formations on 15 September 2008 and the inclusive government born there from on 13 February 2009 . . . the country must hold harmonised elections without fail”.

    The notion that the GNU expired in February 2011 and that elections would then be a legal necessity, continued to be advanced in The Herald, quoting Mugabe in October 2010 and January 2011, stating that the GNU could not be extended beyond a few months after its expiry. When the expiry date arrived, the press reported that all parties were considering a six month “extension”.

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