By Tichaona Sibanda
21 March 2013
President Robert Mugabe is required by the country’s statutes to dissolve parliament before proclaiming an election date, an MDC-T cabinet minister said on Thursday.
Eric Matinenga, the Constitutional and Parliamentary Affairs minister, said laws governing the conduct of elections in Zimbabwe stipulate that a general election shall be held within a period not exceeding four months after the issue of a proclamation dissolving parliament.
‘The current parliament’s life comes to an end on the 29th June…that is the day the presidential term comes to an end because he was sworn in on June 29th 2008.
‘What it means in terms of the law is that after he (Mugabe) dissolves parliament he must then appoint a nomination court date and a polling date which should be within four months of the dissolution of parliament. So the last day Zimbabweans can expect to go for an election is 29th October,’ explained Matinenga.
The minister was reacting to a statement attributed to the Justice and Legal Affairs Minister Patrick Chinamasa who said the country will hold harmonized elections by 29th June this year.
But Matinenga emphasized that if Mugabe insists on 29th June as election date as pronounced by Chinamasa, ‘then he has to dissolve Parliament tomorrow or next week.’
‘He can do so tomorrow (Friday) but that that will be foolhardy of him to do so because we have a lot of work to do before we can go for an election.
‘When you look at the practical realities which relate to what we need to do in terms of the new constitution—aligning the various laws of the current draft—and when you look at where we are today, which is nearly towards the end of March, I cannot see how we can have an election on 29th June.’
The draft constitution, which will be published in the government gazette on the 28th March, will be forwarded to parliament on the 7th May for debate, less than two months before the poll date suggested by Chinamasa.
‘Contrary to what the minister said, we have four months after June 29th to hold elections and that is within the laws of the country,’ Matinenga said.
Political analyst and lawyer Gabriel Shumba said any electoral proclamations should be governed by the new constitution that was overwhelmingly approved by millions of Zimbabweans during Saturday’s referendum.
‘Any attempt therefore to declare a poll date under the Lancaster House constitution, with its Amendment No 19, will be futile or an attempt to negate the power of the new constitution.
‘It’ll also be an attempt to silence the voice of millions of Zimbabweans who voted for the new constitution. Don’t forget that as we speak we are still being governed by the GPA, but the next election must be governed by a new constitution which parliament is going to debate in May. So there will be no short cut in this process,’ said Shumba.
Meanwhile Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai on Wednesday briefed President Jacob Zuma’s facilitation team about the escalation in violence and intimidation against MDC supporters and officials in the last few weeks.
The SADC facilitation team has been in Zimbabwe since last week, observing the referendum.
Recently President Zuma called for a SADC team to be stationed in Zimbabwe as the country heads for make-or-break elections this year.
In a report to a SADC Troika meeting in South Africa last week Zuma said the regional bloc needs to be more robust and to ‘be based in that country to make follow-ups and deal with issues as they arise.’
‘Differences over the role of observers need to be resolved and the SADC guidelines, as well as the laws of Zimbabwe, should be the baseline. Observers should be on site well before the elections and for some period thereafter,’ he said.