Polls: Sadc ‘victory’ could be shortlived

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SADC’s request to President Robert Mugabe to return to the Constitutional Court (Concourt) to seek a two-week extension on its order for elections to be held by July 31, further throws the resolution of the Zimbabwe crisis into fresh confusion and political turmoil, analysts said yesterday.

Report by Njabulo Ncube

Sadc leaders, meeting in Maputo, Mozambique, on Saturday, also directed that the agreed amendments to the Electoral Act, which had been made into law by Mugabe using the Presidential Powers (Temporal Measures) Act be brought to Parliament today for debate and adoption.

But as the MDCs savour what they perceive as a victory in Maputo — thanks to an unlikely alliance between Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and Welshman Ncube, the leader of the MDC —analysts say it is mission impossible implementing long outstanding reforms in the Global Political Agreement (GPA) within a short period of time after the partners in the power-sharing pact failed to do so in almost five years.

Analysts expressed fears the Sadc recommendation could be a ruse of a compromise by regional leaders intended to placate all the partners in the GPA.
But analysts pointed out the Maputo decision would create further confusion, accusations and counter-accusations with Zanu PF and the MDCs grandstanding on the latest Sadc summit resolutions.

They said focus should shift to the Concourt on how it handles the Sadc directive.

Questions abound what would happen if the supreme court of law in the country failed to grant Justice minister Patrick Chinamasa the recommended extension of the poll date.

David Coltart, the MDC legal affairs secretary who also doubles-up as the Education, Sport, Arts and Culture minister, yesterday feared that by the time the Concourt had heard and ruled on the case the original dates would be impossible to fulfil in any event.

“The timeframes were virtually impossible to comply with from the beginning, so this agreement throws the whole process into further confusion,” he said.

Bekithemba Mpofu, a founding MDC Youth Assembly secretary-general, now teaching at Reading University in the United Kingdom, said the interpretation of the Sadc leaders’ referral of the election date to the Concourt presented a tough scenario that required sober legal minds.

He said it was ironic that Zanu PF will have to make a request for an extension at a time when many believed they were wounded in Maputo.

“That said, we have to trust the Constitutional Court’s ability to review the judgement given practical challenges of implementing it at this moment in time,” Mpofu said.

“If in their best judgment, the court believes it is possible to hold the elections on July 31, then any challenge will plunge the country into a constitutional crisis.”

The regional leaders also recommended that the Sadc facilitation team and the troika team appointed in Livingstone, Zambia, sit in Joint Monitoring and Implementation Committee (Jomic) and not merely receive reports as demanded by Zanu PF and 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, among other resolutions.

Mpofu predicted a fast-tracking of reforms and the resolution of their concerns.

Rashweat Mukundu, the chairperson of the Zimbabwe Democracy Institute, said if the Concourt refuses to grant the extension the MDCs will have to make a choice on whether to plunge into an uncertain and lopsided election or boycott.

“Both options pose their own challenges more so the possibility of giving Zanu PF a free reign should they boycott, and should they participate they will legitimise the process. These are hard decisions that have to be made,” he said.

Trevor Maisiri, an analyst with the International Crisis Group, weighed in, saying the most viable options are to get Sadc monitors and observers on the ground, as well as have Sadc officials permanently joining Jomic within the next 10 days. He said this will give them time to monitor and observe the contentious voter registration process as well as whether the environment was conducive for elections.

“I think any arguments around election dates are lesser in value than pushing for Sadc to be on the ground,” Maisiri said.

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