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  • Zimbabwe's Elections 2013 - Index of Articles

  • Zimbabwe puts SADC to the test
    Mail and Guardian (SA)

    June 07, 2013

    View this article on The Mail and Guardian (SA) website

    The Southern African Development Community's summit to discern Zimbabwe's readiness to hold legal and fair elections has been postponed.

    The Southern African Development Community's (SADC) resolve to ensure a free and fair election in Zimbabwe was this week dealt a blow after President Robert Mugabe forced a delay of a summit in order to assess Zimbabwe's preparedness for the polls.

    Late on Thursday, South Africa's department of international relations spokesperson Clayson Monyela confirmed to the Mail & Guardian that Sunday's summit had been postponed. When asked why the summit was postponed, Monyela referred questions to SADC.

    Information obtained by the M&G from SADC diplomats, Zimbabwe's main political negotiators and South African President Jacob Zuma's facilitation team shows there were likely to be explosive exchanges at the summit because Zimbabwe's politicians remain divided on several issues.

    Sources in Zanu-PF said Mugabe had his arm twisted by Zuma at the recent African Union meeting in Addis Ababa to agree to the summit so that SADC could back the credibility of the election.

    Government sources this week said Mugabe, who was in Japan, had phoned Zuma and told him he needed more time to consult his party before a summit.

    M&G understands from sources in the foreign affairs ministry that Harare wrote to SADC's Thomaz Salomão saying Mugabe needed more time to study the judgment.

    'Delaying tactic'

    Diplomatic sources, however, said the real reason Mugabe postponed the meeting is because he now has a legally valid reason to hold an early poll and does not want to be asked by SADC to make media and security reforms before the elections.

    The MDC's Tendai Biti said: "We have told Salomão that we cannot afford to have this meeting postponed. This is as a delaying tactic by Zanu-PF, and we will not accept it."

    Zimbabwe's political leaders are still not in agreement after a Constitutional Court ruling last week ordered elections be held by July 31. The opposition is pressuring SADC leaders to take decisive steps to ensure Mugabe and Zanu-PF hardliners do not stampede the country into elections under current conditions because they would be disputed and have potentially disastrous ­consequences for Zimbabwe.

    The two Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) parties said the ruling by a bench packed with Zanu-PF sympathisers was politically motivated and designed to assist Zanu-PF's agenda for early elections without reforms.

    Mugabe said he would comply with the judgment, but Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, MDC-T leader, rejected it, saying the judiciary was overstepping its mandate and usurping powers of the executive as it has no power to set election dates.

    Ahead of the summit, Zuma's facilitation team was in Harare this week for meetings with political parties and their negotiators to iron out the problems. But sources close to the meetings say there was little agreement as each side dug in its heels.


    The diplomat in Gaborone said that the ruling on the election date would have featured prominently during the SADC summit.

    Mugabe and Zanu-PF are resisting pressure to implement reforms in the Global Political Agreement (GPA) that gave way to the unity government.

    But the MDC formations say these cannot be negotiated and are advocating for media reforms and a code of conduct to govern the behaviour of security services during elections.

    They are also calling for the registrar general to be subordinate to the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission, which is mandated to oversee polls.

    It is not only Zimbabwe that is now under the spotlight, but also the mettle of SADC leaders and the entire organisation, a senior SADC diplomat based at the regional bloc's Gaborone headquarters said.

    "This is still going to be the most important SADC summit on Zimbabwe since the GPA was signed in 2008 and the coalition government formed in 2009," a SADC ambassador based in Harare said.

    "The summit will review the politics and security in the country, evaluating what has been done and what still needs to done in a bid to assess whether Zimbabwe is ready for free and fair elections," the ambassador said.

    "As Salomão said recently, SADC was closely following all political and legal developments in Zimbabwe, including the Constitutional Court case.

    "So the ruling will be discussed within the context of political and legal processes under way in Zimbabwe. The judgment must be followed to the extent that is it feasible to do so and this means people have got to be rational and flexible in dealing with these issues."

    But Lindiwe Zulu, a member of Zuma's team, said her boss and SADC leaders want free and fair elections in Zimbabwe "with or without the court ruling".

    The judgment also created a rift in the judiciary. Though Chief Justice Godfrey Chidyausiku and seven other judges supported it, Deputy Chief Justice Luke Malaba criticised it, saying it "defeats logic" and was "very dangerous".

    Zanu-PF welcomed the ruling, saying it sought to prevent the country from plunging into a constitutional crisis if polls are further delayed.

    Timeframe for elections

    Although the court ruling has now forced Mugabe and his officials to abandon demands for elections on June 29, Zanu-PF is still pushing for an expedited process with little time to implement reforms and new constitutional provisions.

    President of the smaller MDC, Welshman Ncube, who is also a constitutional lawyer, said his party insists polls can only be held in line with the new Constitution.

    "Our position is clear. We are saying we must comply with our Constitution, and our Constitution says there must be 30 days of voter registration. You can't make a new Constitution over four years and start by violating it," said Ncube.

    "When the Supreme Court says elections should be held by July 31, it is in fact saying 'break provisions of the Constitution to fast-track the polls', which is nonsensical."

    Voter registration was supposed to start on June 3 and end on July 2, but, because of logistical problems, will only begin on June 10 and end on July 9.

    Assuming the process goes smoothly, and Mugabe announces the election date there­after, the nomination court will sit on July 23, and then the mandatory 30 days for campaigning will follow.

    This may mean actual voting will only take place in August. By that time the country would be hosting the United Nations World Tourism Organisation General Assembly, which Harare has indicated it will use to present the country as a safe tourism destination.

    MDC-T spokesperson Douglas Mwonzora says his party will only hold elections if all reforms agreed upon by the parties are implemented.

    He said media reforms would result in all contesting parties having fair access to state media during election campaigns.

    Human Rights Watch said in a report on Zimbabwe this week, titled The Elephant in the Room, the country still needs reforms to ensure state security forces "conduct themselves in a nonpartisan and professional manner".

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