PRESIDENT Robert Mugabe was yesterday ordered by an extraordinary Sadc summit to return to the Constitutional Court and seek an extension of two weeks to the date that he set aside for elections.
BY NQABA MATSHAZI IN MOZAMBIQUE
This means polls are likely to be held on August 14, if the court grants the application.
Justice minister, Patrick Chinamasa has been tasked with the filing of the application, an indication that Sadc was getting tough on Mugabe, who last week unilaterally declared July 31 as the date for elections.
The directive represented an embarrassment for Mugabe who had invoked his Presidential Powers and set an election date in violation of the Constitution and the Global Political Agreement.
Under the GPA which was signed in 2008, Mugabe was supposed to consult other principals before determining when the country could go for elections.
In a rare show of unity, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and MDC president, Welshman Ncube, yesterday came together to convince Sadc leaders that Mugabe had erred and there was need for the order to be revised.
“He [Mugabe] accepted that, because they adopted the facilitator’s report, which has a whole range of recommendations; they also adopted our proposal to go back to court and seek an extension,” Ncube said shortly after the summit.
“From here Chinamasa, on behalf of the government, will go back and ask for an extension and during that time we hope we can do all the things we need to do, like proper voter registration and parliament can pass the electoral amendments.”
South African President Jacob Zuma, who is the facilitator to the Zimbabwean mediation, also presented a report which outlined key reforms, particularly security sector and media law amendments, Ncube explained.
He said it was now up to the Constitutional Court to decide whether it agreed with the position of the government and Sadc.
Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai said he was happy that sanity had finally prevailed and expressed the hope that Mugabe will abide by the Sadc resolution.
“We have to be seen to respect the region. They are stakeholders in the GPA and have a stake in the way the GNU is going to divorce through elections,” said Tsvangirai’s spokesperson, Luke Tamborinyoka.
MDC-T secretary-general Tendai Biti said Sadc had nullified Mugabe’s proclamation that elections be held at the end of next month, describing the summit as historical.
“The date of July 31 is not on, the time frame of the things that need to be done will determine that date,” he said.
Biti said Zuma, in his report, insisted that amendments to the Electoral Act that were agreed on should be taken to parliament and be fast-tracked, while the 30-day voter registration must continue unabated till July 9.
“Summit underscored that we need to attend to media reform, with the appointment of an Independent Media Commission, consisting of Cabinet ministers, to oversee the implementation of agreed positions, which include the appointment of a new boards for the Mass Media Commission, for the ZBC and the Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe (BAZ),” he said.
“On the security sector the summit underscored the obligation of our security chiefs to respect the Constitution and to issue a statement complying with Article 208 of the new Constitution, which speaks to the neutrality of our security forces, that they cannot be active members of any political party and that they will respect, salute and obey any legitimate constitutional order.”
Biti said there were a number of laws that needed to be amended like Aippa, Posa, Section 121 of the Criminal Procedure and Evidence Act and this had to be done within the given time.
Biti, who is also Finance minister, described the unlikely alliance between Tsvangirai and Ncube as an “incredible tag teaming”.
“I think most Zimbabweans would like to see a grand coalition against dictatorship and tyranny in Zimbabwe,” he said, declining to reveal if there were any pact negotiations between the two.
Chinamasa said the MDCs and Zanu PF must first negotiate on proposals that will be brought, before approaching the courts.
“We have no guarantee that the court will give the extension and the summit actually acknowledges that, because the courts are independent, so we cannot guarantee the outcome of any court application,” he said.
The key operative decisions of SADC are that:
GOVERNMENT through the ministry of Justice is ordered and directed to make an application to the constitutional court following consultations by all political parties ,seeking to move the date of the election from July 30 2013.
That the agreed amendments to the Electoral Act which had purportedly been made into law by the President using the Presidential Powers(Temporal Measures ) Act be brought to Parliament this Tuesday for debate and adoption.
That the Sadc facilitation team and the troika team appointed in Livingstone sit in Jomic and not merely receive reports as demanded by Zanu PF.
That an Inter Ministerial Committee be appointed to deal with implementation of agreed issues on media reform and the monitoring of hate speech in all media.
That the security forces publicly state or restate their commitment to the rule of law in particular their complete adherence to section 208 of the constitution.
That within the time Parliament has remaining the parties negotiate and make the necessary amendments to Posa, Aippa,the Broadcasting Act ,section 121 of the Criminal Procedure and Evidence Act, etc.
That Sadc observers be deployed immediately consistent with the Sadc Principles and Guidelines Governing Democratic Elections.
l That any other issue and the implementation of the above be overseen by the facilitation team.
Mugabe was ‘embarrassed by his advisors’
Speaking before the summit, Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition director, McDonald Lewanika urged Sadc to ensure that it did not endorse a poll that fell short of the minimum standards of a democratic election.
“Sadc should continue piling pressure on Zimbabwe, saying they will not recognise an election that is not credible,” he said.
Attempts to get a comment from Zanu PF spokesperson Rugare Gumbo were fruitless as his mobile was not reachable.
Priscilla Misihairabwi-Mushonga, the Secretary General of the MDC said Mugabe was humiliated at the meeting.
She wrote on her Facebook page: “Am sitting in this summit and so conflicted, I have listened to President Mugabe, heard Prime Minister Tsvangirai, listened to Prof Ncube give a plain and simple explanation on the unconstitutionality of the proclamation.
“I am glad we can put our case but do we have to get here where a group of people drag their leader here, advise him wrongly therefore embarrassing him in front of his colleagues.
“How do people set their leader like this, I can’t even look at him, but more so, am so angry with this group who want President Mugabe to end his career this way.”