17 May 2013

Zimbabwe: June 29 Poll Claims Zanu-PF Chat Show

Brian Chitemba — FOR the past four years, President Robert Mugabe has been threatening to unilaterally call for general elections to end the coalition government he claims is a dysfunctional creature.

Publicly, Mugabe has since 2010 been telling Zimbabweans to get ready for imminent elections, claiming the unity government formed in 2009 only had a two-year mandate despite not providing any evidence to back up the assertion.

Last week Mugabe made fresh demands in Mutare, insisting nothing would stop him from ensuring elections are held by June 29, while further indicating he would set poll dates this week.

Zanu PF officials and their state media hacks have also been parroting Mugabe's declarations which have been repeatedly proven unfounded by time over the past four years.

Even though events on the ground show their claims are unrealistic and groundless, they remain undeterred in their choreographed repetition of what amounts to misleading pronouncements.

Even clear constitutional and legal positions on the elections issue have been deliberately misinterpreted in pursuit of early polls, creating confusion on matters that should be fairly clear.

While Mugabe and his supporters have been labouring through election dates claims which have been proven false since 2010, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai consistently pointed out Mugabe cannot make such as key decisions without consulting him as required under the Global Political Agreement (GPA).

The tenure of the current parliament lapses at midnight on June 28 and elections would be constitutionally due within 120 days, but the various processes that need to be completed before polls are held indicate it is not possible for Zimbabweans to be railroaded into voting by the end of next month.

Analysts dismiss Mugabe's call for early elections as mere political rhetoric because it was unlikely he would proclaim election dates before the full implementation of critical political and electoral processes, some of which are outlined in the GPA, to pave way for credible, free and fair polls.

Mugabe, who is becoming increasingly frail due to old age and reported illness, is said to be eager for early elections while he could still withstand the rigours of a gruelling campaign.

But with May halfway through, lack of consensus and clarity on issues are conspiring against Mugabe's wishes for a June election as all necessary processes to hold credible polls, like harmonising existing laws such as the Electoral Act, Urban Councils Act and Rural District Councils Act with the new constitution, will have to be complete within just six weeks.

According to sources at the Registrar-General's Office, voter registration will close on May 28 although it was likely to be extended by another month to June 28, after which two months is required for data capture which would take until around August 28.

After data capture, another month is required for voters' roll inspection after which a further month is needed to capture the data, suggesting the process could be completed around October.

MDC leader Welshman Ncube - by far the most consistent political leader on this subject - has insisted for the past four years that elections would be held late 2013, although his current calculations show they could come anytime between August and October.

However, some political analysts, particularly Ibbo Mandaza, say it would be impossible to have elections in October since it will be the beginning of the summer farming season as many would-be voters are most likely to be pre-occupied with agricultural activities.

Ncube says for the country to hold credible elections, close to 60 days are required to implement critical processes that include the conclusion of the constitution-making process and harmonisation of the laws with the new constitution.

Even if Mugabe fast-tracks the gazetting of the new constitution, he can only do it around the end of this month after which the new constitution stipulates that a mandatory voter registration outreach be conducted for a minimum of 30 days.

The new constitution also requires nomination of candidates to take at least 14 days after proclamation of election dates, and at least 30 days before polling day.

This proves timelines to be incorporated into the Electoral Act make polls on June 29 impossible.

Further, Ncube believes elections are only feasible by October 27, since the constitution says an election must be held not later than 120 days from the dissolution of parliament.

But constitutional lawyer Lovemore Madhuku says it was legally possible to have elections by June 29 because the voter registration timelines could be altered to pave way for polls.

"There is nothing that can stop elections as long as there is a new constitution. The 30 days voter registration doesn't stop elections because we are still more than 30 days away from June 29 of which the voters' roll can close two weeks before poll date," said Madhuku.

However, he conceded elections could be delayed because some political parties were demanding reforms which could take "forever to be implemented".

South African International Relations deputy minister Ebrahim Ebrahim this week dismissed prospects of June 29 elections, saying Zimbabwe has to implement reforms first. This sparked anger from Zanu PF officials like Jonathan Moyo.

"There have to be certain reforms that need to be speeded up. If Zanu PF says they (polls) should be held in June or July that is probably playing politics. All parties should agree that the time is ripe for an election," Ebrahim told the South African Press Agency.

Apart from the legal processes that need implementation, political parties appear not yet ready for elections despite rising rhetoric. Mugabe and Zanu PF, which has been passing resolutions to hold early elections at its annual conferences since 2010, have been exposed as powerless on the issue.

Besides, Zanu PF is still to hold its primary elections after their guidelines were postponed several times since November 2012. There is also the on-going restructuring exercise of provincial structures led by party chairperson Simon Khaya Moyo which is still in its infancy with only three out of 10 provinces having been covered.

Moyo has reshuffled the faction-riddled Manicaland and Bulawayo provincial executives and is yet to visit Masvingo and after that Harare, in a frantic bid to strengthen the party before elections.

After the provincial restructuring programme, Zanu PF would then invite aspiring MPs to submit their CVs. The candidates will then have to campaign for the primaries before preparing for general elections.

Top Zanu PF officials say they require at least two months to campaign before elections, meaning elections can only be possible between August and September at the earliest.

They also say the deepening internal fighting in Zanu PF could also delay elections as Mugabe is struggling to quell the widespread infighting threatening to split his party before elections.

Officials say Mugabe could only call for elections after he has managed to stabilise his fragile party, which was defeated in the 2008 elections mainly due to the economic meltdown and internal power struggles.

The MDC-T has also postponed its primaries due to growing internal strife over the candidate selection process, something which shows elections are still a long way off.

Earlier this month, Tsvangirai embarked on a regional offensive to lobby Sadc and other African leaders to ensure Mugabe adopts reforms before elections.

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