Zimbabwe: Using Old Constitution a 'Violation' of GPA

Photo: Parliament of Zimbabwe
Parliament of Zimbabwe

AS plans to conclude the constitution-making process and other key reforms ahead of elections continue to hang in the balance, analysts say it will be disastrous if polls are called under the Lancaster House Constitution.

Zanu PF at its annual national people's conference held in Gweru last month resolved President Robert Mugabe should dissolve Parliament and proclaim a date for the elections if the constitution-making process was not concluded by last Christmas.

The Cabinet and parliamentary committee tasked with breaking the impasse on constitution-making has since failed to meet the deadline.

Presidential spokesman George Charamba recently said Mugabe could still call for elections under the current Lancaster House Constitution if a new charter was not finalised soon.

But analysts said it was unlikely that Mugabe and Zanu PF would go ahead with threats to unilaterally call for elections under the current constitution as there were many forces at play.

Political Scientist, Shakespeare Hamauswa said elections using the current constitution would not produce a credible result.

He said threats to call for elections using the old constitution were a negotiating tactic by Zanu PF.

"The party is using threats so that its demands are met," said Hamauswa. "They are saying to the two MDCs, accept our proposals to amend the Copac draft constitution or else we go with the old constitution. Elections without a new constitution threaten the validity of the result."

He said since 2010, Zanu PF had been threatening to call for elections but this never materialised because of the role of Sadc as guarantors of the Global Political Agreement (GPA).

Hamauswa said agreeing on a new constitution was Sadc's main precondition for the holding of new free and fair elections.

The MDC-T has said the June 2008 Presidential elections run-off was characterised by intimidation, violence and it left over 200 of its supporters dead.

Political analyst, Charles Mangongera believes threats to call for elections under the current constitution were most likely a "bluff".

"The idea is to psyche-up people for national elections," he said.

Mangongera said elections were part of a negotiated settlement and not an issue of trying to convince the MDCs.

He said Sadc made it clear that the three GPA partners had to implement the agreed election roadmap, including concluding a new constitution before holding free and fair polls.

"We have heard this talk before but I think Mugabe is politically shrewd enough to understand the implications of unilaterally calling for elections," said Mangongera. "Mugabe himself is tired of the old constitution and has in the past made reference to it as an old tattered trousers which is now full of patches and therefore in need of replacement."

He said some around Mugabe could be the ones frustrated by the current constitution-making process as they were eager to participate in elections in the hope of winning.

The Copac-driven constitution-making process has been deadlocked for several months over demands by Zanu PF to incorporate several amendments into the new draft charter.

Zanu PF wants to maintain Mugabe's imperial powers.

The party is also against devolution of power, dual citizenship, a land commission security sector reforms and the creation of an independent prosecuting authority separate from the Attorney-General's office.

But the two MDCs have so far insisted that the Copac draft was final as all parties appended their signatures to the document.

The President has to consult all principals

University of Zimbabwe political science lecturer, Professor John Makumbe said it would be a violation of the GPA to hold elections using the old constitution.

He said constitutional amendment number 19 stipulated that Mugabe has to consult Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and Welshman Ncube of MDC before dissolving Parliament and proclaiming dates for elections.

"Chances are Mugabe is not keen to be on the wrong side of Sadc and to call for elections without consulting the other GPA principals," said Makumbe.

He said calling for elections using the Lancaster House Constitution would be the "worst scenario" for the country.

"This will literally produce the same result of 2008 [elections]. The two MDC formations, Sadc and the African Union would never accept this scenario," said Makumbe.

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