IF there is one sobering thing that can be unequivocally said about why the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) has scandalously delayed the announcement of the March 29 presidential election, it is simply that President Robert Mugabe did not win the election and is now desperately trying to steal the result through an unjustified recount because he does not have any prospect of winning a run-off or a re-run.
Had Mugabe won the election, even with less than the absolute majority required under the Electoral Act, ZEC would have announced the result ages ago and Zimbabweans would have been spared the constitutional uncertainty and political anxiety that have put the nation on the brink of utter chaos and mayhem.
The simple truth which ZEC has found hard to stomach and which Mugabe and his shocked cronies have found hard to swallow is that Morgan Tsvangirai won the presidential election even if with less than the required absolute majority.Â In other words, Tsvangirai got more votes than Mugabe and thus defeated him.Â
If the Electoral Act had not been amended after the 2002 presidential election to require a run-off where no candidate gets an absolute majority, Tsvangirai would have been sworn in by now and Zimbabwe would be in a totally new situation under his MDC government and we would not have the current charade of a dissolved cabinet whose defeated ministers are now seeking to unconstitutionally smuggle themselves back into office under spurious but self-serving interpretations of Section 31E of the Constitution.
It is common cause that Mugabe dissolved not just parliament but also cabinet before the March 29 elections and this fact was widely reported in the media.Â
What must be understood is that in terms of Section 31E (1) (a) of the Constitution, the significance of the dissolution of cabinet by the president is that it is constitutionally the same as the removal from office of vice-presidents, ministers and deputy ministers.Â When the president dissolves cabinet, it means that vice-presidents, ministers and deputy ministers have all been dismissed and removed from their offices in one fell swoop.
There are two scenarios under which cabinet is typically dissolved or dismissed in Zimbabwe: one happens before a cabinet reshuffle and the other before a general election.Â In either case, the dissolution means that there is no cabinet thereafter and thus there are no government ministers. Many times in the past, Mugabe has dissolved cabinet before a reshuffle and persons not reappointed in the reshuffle have not remained as ministers on grounds that the dissolution was merely an administrative matter with no constitutional significance.
Given that Mugabe has not reappointed anyone to reconstitute the cabinet that he dissolved last month, Zimbabwe right now does not have a cabinet. This means there is no government.Â As such, there is now a constitutional vacuum which is made worse by the fact that the country is also going through an unprecedented economic meltdown whose resolution requires an elected government with a requisite economic recovery plan.
The only exception, which is not much of a consolation, is that the dissolution of the cabinet in March did not affect the embattled Mugabe who appointed it and who, even if defeated on March 29, is nevertheless empowered by Section 29 of the Constitution to unhappily continue in office until the person elected as President on March 29 takes over the reins of governance.
The constitutional crisis now gripping the nation arises from ZEC’s delinquent failure to announce the result of the March 29 presidential election and that failure has in turn prevented the democratic and constitutional processes from yielding a new President to enable the country to move forward in a stable and cohesive manner cemented by national unity and the law.
Against this background, ZEC’s perverse delay in announcing the result of the presidential election leaves Zimbabweans and the international community with only one gloomy conclusion: the defeated Mugabe and his shocked hangers-on are using the delay to scheme up a dirty game plan whose nefarious purpose is to reverse Tsvangirai’s electoral victory with the collusion of ZEC at all cost and by any means available.Â This is being done under a barrage of confused and confusing Zanu PF talk around a recount, runoff or rerun when the result has not been announced.
In the circumstances, ZEC’s delay in announcing the result has become inherently destabilising to the detriment of both the national interest and national security.Â
As far as the national interest is concerned, there was no reason on earth why the nation went to great lengths and at great cost to hold a presidential election in terms of the law on March 29 if there’s was a predetermination by officialdom that only one particular candidate, Mugabe, had to win or else all hell would break loose.Â The outcome of an election is determined by the voters and not by the whims of officialdom. The voters rejected Mugabe on March 29 and officialdom must unconditionally and graciously accept that electoral verdict in the national interest even if some officials have debatable or even understandable reservations about Tsvangirai’s leadership, ideology or policies.
If officialdom uses all sorts of self-indulgent pretexts to reject an electoral outcome that has been determined by the will of the people, as is currently happening, that rejection necessarily threatens national security by exposing the country to hostile external interference.Â This is because the international community, especially Zimbabwe’s neighbours in Sadc, cannot be expected to stand idly by while Mugabe digs in and embarks on a scorched earth policy against his own people and country for the sole purpose of reversing an unannounced election result won by Tsvangirai.Â Zimbabwe’s detractors won’t miss such an unfortunate opportunity created by what can only be Mugabe’s contempt for the electorate with the assistance of ZEC.
Because Mugabe is so stubborn as to be incapable of doing the right thing on his own, those who still have his ear and the ear of the military and security complex around him, need to appreciate three inescapable realities facing officialdom and communicate them accordingly:
lThe current electoral stalemate created by ZEC on Mugabe’s behalf cannot be resolved through a recount, rerun or runoff.Â It would be foolhardy to use an election to resolve an election impasse.Â What is needed is a negotiated settlement for a transitional process that recognises the will of the people as expressed on March 29 while also appreciating Mugabe’s institutional sensitivities and personal anxieties along with those of his close associates in key organs of the state.
lZimbabweans have crossed the electoral Rubicon which means that Mugabe simply cannot win any election; not even one which is neither free nor fair in his favour.Â Mugabe’s days of electoral victories are irretrievably gone.
lIn the most unlikely event that Mugabe were to win a recount, runoff or rerun by hook or by crook and thus remain in office, the economy would reject him with devastating consequences for the livelihood of ordinary people to the point of necessitating never before seen chaos and mayhem.
What this means is that Mugabe no longer has any electoral option involving him as a candidate outside a negotiated settlement for a gracious exit.Â He is certain to be humiliated in untold ways if he should be unwise enough to participate in a runoff or rerun as no rational voter can see him turning around the economy or just running this country for the next five years.Â The Zanu PF claims that only Mugabe can secure the gains of the liberation struggle in general and the land reform programme in particular are plain silly and if they are true then God help us because Mugabe is not going to be with us for any sustainable period in revolutionary terms.
By Jonathan Moyo
Professor Jonathan Moyo is the MP for Tsholotsho North.