Mugabe outwits Tsvangirai

  THE Constitutional Court sits today to consider an application in which the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) formations are seeking to have the July 31 poll date extended by two weeks, amid clear indications that President Robert Mugabe has outwitted his archrivals by making it difficult for them to wiggle out of the coalition on the basis of his reluctance to give in to reforms they were insisting on prior to the decisive plebiscite, The Financial Gazette can report. Despite their animated resistance to polls under lopsided electoral conditions and what they called President Mugabe’s unilateralism in proclaiming the election date, analysts this week said ZANU-PF’s most prominent opponents had authenticated a process they are fiercely opposed to after filing their papers at the Nomination Court last Friday. With the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission now full steam ahead with poll preparations, they said the two MDC formations find themselves stuck in an electoral process they have serious misgivings with.

In a way, President Mugabe has succeeded in using his power of incumbency to block attempts by his rivals, including the Southern African Development Community (SADC), to chip away the advantages enjoyed by his party before the crucial elections that would end the life of the inclusive government, made up of strange bedfellows. Effie Ncube, a political analyst, said the MDCs and other smaller parties should be ready to get into the political race with an uneven playing field adding that, at this moment, neither party can afford to boycott the process because that would signal their demise. “Legally and constitutionally, there are zero options that the parties can use after the Constitutional Court has ruled in favour of the July 31st date. However, politically they can still continue to press for reforms so that the President of the country can issue and assure a free and fair election,” noted Ncube. What has made the situation untenable for the MDC parties is that SADC, their only source of hope in nudging ZANU-PF to a political rapprochement, has since indicated that the decision of the Constitutional Court shall be final, closing any likelihood of further dialogue in the event that the July 31 poll date is upheld. The African Union (AU) which, along with SADC acted as the guarantors of the Global Political Agreement (GPA) that gave birth to the inclusive government, has also surrendered the contentious election date dispute to the courts, making it doubly difficult for the MDC parties to seek any external remedies once a ruling has been made. What is not helping matters is that President Mugabe and Justice and Legal Affairs Minister Patrick Chinamasa have, as part of their heads of arguments, deftly dissociated themselves from the court application. While their actions fly in the face of recommendations made by SADC at its summit in Maputo, Mozambique last month for the coalition partners to jointly seek a poll extension, they have made it difficult for the courts to overturn the proclamation without being accused of usurping the role of the Executive branch of the State. With their options narrowed down to domestic remedies, ZANU-PF’s rivals now find themselves having to participate in make-or-break elections without the security sector and media reforms they were harping on since they joined the coalition government in February 2009. In fact, the list of reforms captured during SADC’s last summit is a truncation of what the MDC parties were insisting on since the consummation of the GPA. While ZANU-PF had sought to play hardball by demanding the unconditional lifting of sanctions imposed on the ruling elite in President Mugabe’s party by Western and European governments and that pirate radio stations beaming into Zimbabwe cease doing so as part of its conditions to acceding to the demands by the rivals, the MDC parties had a long list of demands. Key among their demands were changes to media laws as well as electoral and security sector reforms. The MDC parties also wanted the reversal of certain key government appointments, the establishment of the National Economic Council, the removal of Attorney General Johannes Tomana and Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe governor Gideon Gono from office, a new Constitution and that some of their officials be appointed as provincial governors and ambassadors, among others. But with only three weeks left before the elections, only the new Constitution has been realised. All ZANU-PF is aiming for now is to ensure that no violence breaks out before, during and after the elections to avoid the recurrence of the bloodletting that marred the June 2008 presidential election run-off, resulting in SADC and the AU prescribing a unity government in order to end the contestation for power that erupted as a result of the sham election. Prime Minister (PM) Morgan Tsvangirai’s party, the MDC-T, claims more than 200 of its supporters were killed in cold blood when violence broke out in the run-up to the run-off, forcing the former trade unionist to quit the race. In February this year, the MDC-T leader warned that his party would boycott elections if violence against its supporters continues. This followed the death of 12-year-old Christpowers Maisiri in Headlands when a fire gutted the hut in which he was sleeping. The MDC-T had blamed ZANU-PF for the tragedy, claiming the target of the alleged attack was the boy’s father, Shepherd, a senior local official for the party. Police, however, ruled out foul play saying their investigations had revealed that no residue of a petrol bomb was found at the scene, adding that there was no indication that the fire was deliberately started in an act of arson. ZANU-PF insiders said their leader’s persistent calls for peaceful elections was a clear message to his supporters to refrain from the use of force which might arm President Mugabe’s opponents into pulling out of the elections. While there might be another outcry anddispute over the outcome of the elections because of the absence of reforms, analysts said SADC and the AU might find it difficult to revoke the outcome on that basis since they would have allowed the polls to take place under current conditions. In any case, their observers will also be on the ground to monitor the situation. Matshobana Ncube, a lawyer, said once the date has been proclaimed there is nothing that the political parties can do to stop the process. “It will put the matter into finality and it is going to be an unfair situation for the political parties. At this moment the parties are also stuck because to push for reforms in this short period when they are also campaigning is also going to be difficult however, seeing that most of the legislation that has come out from Parliament has been through negotiation they might still have a chance to negotiate media and security (sector) reforms. However, this is a prime example where there has been a major discord between the court and Parliament where the provisions that the courts looked into were not in concurrence with the decision of Parliament. However, that is the rule of law and it has to be respected and the other tiers of government can no longer have that political power to influence the judiciary,” said Ncube. Thabani Nyoni, spokesperson for Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition, said complicating matters further was the automatic dissolution of Parliament last week. “Now is the time to mobilise and tell their members to go and register as well as vote. The dissolving of Parliament also meant that decisions have been left to the Executive, which is also an interested party and in my opinion is striving for the elections to be held as soon as possible,” said Nyoni.

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