HARARE – Robert Mugabe’s Justice and Legal Affairs Minister Patrick Chinamasa said he has advised his leader yesterday to comply with the court determination to clear the way for the polls.
He said Zimbabwe will stand guided by the Supreme Court ruling, as going back on the July 31 deadline would be unconstitutional.
“After carefully studying the judgment, which is obliging the President to call for elections by July 31, I have advised the President to comply with the order so that he does not violate the new constitution,” he said.
“We want to make it clear that any attempts to violate the Constitutional Court under the new Constitutional dispensation will be opposed vigorously. We should uphold the principle of constitutionalism. Given that we only adopted this new Constitution recently, we cannot be found violating it soon after its inception.”
Chinamasa urged all political parties intending to participate in the elections to prepare for the implementation of the Constitutional Court verdict.
He said Government is now aligning its systems with the election period, adding that the Cabinet Committee on Legislation last week completed a Draft Bill of electoral amendments that need to be enacted before the polls.
The amendments relate to proportional parliamentary representation and the setting up of a Provincial Council, among others.
All the three parties in the inclusive Government have agreed on the proposed amendments which will be presented before Parliament soon.
“We had five meetings with negotiators in the inclusive Government and agreed on the electoral amendments that have been made to comply with the new Constitution.
“On Thursday, a Cabinet committee agreed to the amendments. What is now left is for the full Cabinet to endorse the amendments and approve the Bill before it is taken to Parliament.
“. . .The 30-day intensive voter registration exercise also started running a day after the new Constitution was signed into law. We have mobilised sufficient resources. We agreed in Cabinet that there will be a registration centre manned in each ward by up to 14 people.
“The centres will provide a full package of needs for all the necessary processes that one has to undergo to be registered as a voter.”
On Friday, the Supreme Court ruled that Zimbabwe should hold elections by July 31 after human rights activist Mr Jealousy Mawarire approached the court seeking to compel President Mugabe to proclaim a date for elections to be conducted by June 29.
June 29 coincides with the expiry of the life of the Seventh Parliament of Zimbabwe.
Part of the judgment reads: “It is declared that the failure by the first respondent (President Mugabe) to fix and proclaim the dates for the harmonised general election to take place by 29 June 2013 is a violation of the first respondent’s constitutional duty towards the applicant to exercise his functions as a public officer in accordance with the law and to observe and uphold the rule of law in terms of section 18 (1a) of the Constitution.
“Accordingly, the first respondent be and is hereby ordered and directed to proclaim as soon as possible a date (s) for the holding of Presidential elections, general election and for elections for members of governing bodies of local authorities in terms of section 58 (1) of the Constitution of Zimbabwe which elections should take place by no later than 31 July 2013.”
Soon after the ruling, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai condemned the court, saying it had overstepped its mandate. He said determining election dates was the prerogative of the Executive.
However, Zanu PF loyalist commentator and Constitutional law expert Professor Lovemore Madhuku yesterday said the ruling determination was “sound in law”.
He pointed out that the next step was for the President to respect the law by calling for elections within the prescribed timeframe.
“The judgment simply means one thing: the country needs to go to elections without fail. It is nonsensical for those who say what the court has done is out of its mandate, to utter such words because the court simply resolved the dispute over the election date,” he said.
“The court is the only organ in our country with the power to resolve such disputes when it is approached. The MDC-T has a problem. They cannot practise what they preach. They should just respect the laws of the land. Their behaviour of slamming such judgments is uncalled for.
“It is an unfortunate statement. It is also worrying for such a statement to come from a senior member of Government. We will have very serious problems in future if Government officials do not respect court decisions.”
Tsvangirai said the court had no authority over the determination of election dates.“The Supreme Court has no power whatsoever to set an election date. In the true spirit of separation of powers, an election date remains a political process in which the executive has a role to play,” the MDC-T leader said in a statement issued by his spokesperson, Luke Tamborinyoka.
Chimasa said: “There is clear evidence that there are some within the executive who wish to circumvent the consultative role in the GPA and the share responsibility enshrined therein to pronounce an election date under the cloak of judicial authority.
“An election date is the responsibility of the executive, which has not shown that it has failed to announce such a date. SADC and the people of Zimbabwe know that an election date is a result of political pronouncements in which the judiciary has no role to play.
“The Principals have a consultative mechanism that would ensure that a date is proclaimed following an agreement by all parties. This is what SADC, the AU and the people of Zimbabwe expect, not a date set up under the cover of the judiciary without a mechanism to ensure to that issues of the election environment and reforms are addressed.”
The MDC-T leader has previously said his party would not participate in the elections unless media and security sector reforms are implemented.
Zanu PF says there is nothing wrong with the country’s security services adding any talk of reform is the height of treachery.
The MDC-T has over the past week been holding primary elections around the country to choose candidates for the polls which will replace the coalition government.
Contacted for comment yesterday, Mr Mawarire supported the court decision.
He said: “We expect everyone, especially our leaders as the custodians of the Constitution, to abide by that decision because it is a result of the process within the inclusive Government which brought about this Constitutional Court.
“This decision cannot be belittled by anyone, especially key players who actively participated in its formulation. It would set a very bad precedent for people not to respect that important decision. We have come to the conclusion that elections are due and we knew where to seek recourse. That is why we approached the court.”