‘Polls after August 25’

CONSTITUTIONAL Affairs minister Eric Matinenga yesterday said elections can only be held on August 25 at the earliest, if Zimbabwe was to follow all legal processes as dictated by the new Constitution, as a ruling by the Constitutional Court continues to spark debate over dates for polls.

REPORT BY VENERANDA LANGA

The Constitutional Court recently ordered President Robert Mugabe to set a date for elections before July 31, but legal experts warn that this may not be possible.

However, Matinenga told Parliament that despite the ruling of the Constitutional Court, it was impossible to implement the judgment.

“The judgment of the Supreme Court, as our most superior court, is final and this government or anyone associated with it is obliged to accept that ruling, but the law does not sanction the impossible,” he said in response to a question from Makoni West MP Webber Chinyadza.

“There are other recourses that one can follow to enhance the judgment — and nobody is saying the President should be in contempt of the Constitutional Court, but he can approach the court and on properly convincing the court, cannot find it difficult to extend the period so that it gives possibility to the various processes to do with elections as set out in our Constitution.”

Matinenga said approaching the Constitutional Court for an extension was not something new, as Mugabe had done it before in the case of the three by-elections in Matabeleland.

Mugabe has indicated that he will comply with the Constitutional Court ruling, but this has triggered a flurry of lawsuits, as some feel that an election before July 31 will negate other processes that need to be completed before polls.

At a separate event, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai insisted Mugabe cannot set a date for elections without consulting him.
Mugabe has often run roughshod over an agreement that he should consult Tsvangirai, but the Premier maintained yesterday he held the keys to a legitimate election.

“The date must be in line with the legal benchmarks and timelines for the necessary election period,” he told civil society heads in Harare. “As Prime Minister, I will use my position to convince the President that reforms should take place before we can have an election.

“If he unilaterally announces an election date, I cannot give legitimacy to that election date unless we agree.”

Tsvangirai maintained that electoral, security and other reforms stated in the Global Political Agreement should be implemented before free and fair elections can be held.

He said MDC-T had jointly sent a letter with other political parties to Sadc compelling the regional body to insist on a roadmap that includes electoral reforms.

“As leaders of the five political parties, we have already written to Sadc that the constitutional position must be held,” Tsvangirai said. “We hope we can achieve reforms and that they can be implemented. All it takes is political will.”

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