ZANU-PF sounds war drums
WAR drums are getting louder countrywide as a defiant ZANU-PF ups the tempo in disregard of the Global Political Agreement (GPA) that gave way to the inclusive government.
Information made available to The Financial Gazette this week ahead of the meeting of the party’s supreme decision-making body in between congresses suggests that ZANU-PF is pulling all the stops for President Robert Mugabe to okay crunch elections without the reforms envisaged under the power-sharing pact.
The party appears resolute on going to elections before July 31 and would not allow its coalition partners, let alone the Southern African Development Community (SADC), which meets in the Mozambican capital of Maputo on Saturday, to derail its poll plan.Whereas President Mugabe had struggled previously to coerce SADC to endorse his party’s election strategy, a controversial Constitutional Court ruling delivered by Chief Justice Godfrey Chidyausiku recently armed the revolutionary party with an opportunity to railroad its opponents into a rushed election without the GPA reforms.
At the previous SADC meeting, the regional bloc had been uncharacteristically firm against President Mugabe who is looking at extending his 33-year rule at the next polls by insisting on the implementation of an election roadmap before the elections.
With the Constitutional Court ruling cementing the party’s election push, yesterday’s Polit-buro meeting was meant to clear the remaining roadblocks frustrating ZANU-PF’s efforts to call for snap elections.
While details of the meeting remained sketchy at the time of going to print, ZANU-PF insiders said the party’s primary elections would be held before the end of this month or early next month.
A report by a probe team that traversed the 10 political provinces to crush dissent also suggests that friction among the warring factions had significantly reduced, according to ZANU-PF insiders.
Ahead of the SADC meeting on Saturday, President Mugabe has already secured Cabinet’s endorsement on amendments to align the Electoral Act with the new charter.
His next challenge on Saturday is to pin down SADC into okaying elections towards the end of July. His argument is basically that whether the GPA has been implemented in full or not, the Constitution must be respected.
The veteran politician has since said he would abide by the court ruling and that he was against ruling by decree once Parliament has been dissolved on June 29.
“Being a new charter in its first month of taking effect, we do not see SADC suggesting anything to the contrary because the regional bloc would have set a dangerous precedent that would be out of step with the dictates of constitutionalism, which is the foundation for any democracy,” said a ZANU-PF Politburo member on Tuesday.
ZANU-PF national spokesperson, Rugare Gumbo, told the State-owned The Herald yesterday that the party would conduct its primary polls in one day using polling stations that are usually used during general elections with all card carrying members expected to vote.
This, according to Politburo members canvassed by The Financial Gazette, would be “a dress rehearsal” for the make-or-break elections likely to be tightly contested between ZANU-PF and Prime Minister (PM) Morgan Tsvangirai’s Movement for Democratic Change (MDC-T) party.
What is making ZANU-PF frantic in its attempts to have elections by July 31 is that the party also wants to give little time to its rivals to consummate a possible coalition that could avert the splitting of the opposition vote as happened in previous elections.
Its main challenge remains the flurry of applications before the Constitutional Court as private citizens attempt to block a rushed election and the unavailability of funding to bankroll the elections. Nearly US$131 million is needed to fund the harmonised elections.
Chief Justice Chidyausiku’s ruling has provoked a flurry of activity leading to some kind of a united front against the ZANU-PF leader.
But the incumbent and his party have rallied to push through their agenda despite the fact that they have not yet held primary elections whereas the MDC-T has almost finished conducting its primary polls.
PM Tsvangirai is also ratcheting up pressure on SADC to insist on security sector and media reforms as well as the implementation of all other outstanding reforms as agreed in the roadmap to elections ahead of the polls. The MDC-T leader was in South Africa this week to lobby influential members of the ruling African National Congress to exert pressure on President Jacob Zuma to demand reforms.
Civil society groups aligned to the premier’s party are also expected to make a beeline to Mozambique to lobby regional leaders who will descend in Maputo for the summit.
But Gumbo told The Financial Gazette on Tuesday that the MDCs and their allies were shooting in the dark as they do not understand the workings of the diplomatic world.
He said calls to forestall the polls were ill-conceived as SADC heads of state and government understand ZANU-PF’s position that there must be respect of the sovereign status of the country as well as constitutional provisions.
“The issue of an election date can only be decided by his Excellency President Robert Mugabe. Referring it to SADC is a non-starter and it doesn’t work,” said Gumbo in a telephone interview.
He also lashed out at the political parties that have formed a coalition against President Mugabe and ZANU-PF’s push for early elections.
“Those parties do not understand the dynamics of the diplomatic world; they think that it’s a matter they can just push around like that. It’s not easy, it doesn’t work,” said a defiant Gumbo.
War drums keep sounding amid claims that ZANU-PF has roped in members of the security sector once more to spearhead its campaign as in 2008. There are reports that the party has bought motorbikes for use on the campaign trail.
Also, several brand-new all-terrain vehicles were bought late last year in preparation for the harmonised polls.
The MDCs have claimed that ZANU-PF’s war chest is funded by diamond money which is not being remitted to Treasury.
On their part, ZANU-PF have not denied this. Their formal coffers are empty as they have been failing to pay workers while the bankruptcy was also revealed at the party’s Gweru conference in December.
This comes as the government-controlled newspaper The Herald this week suggested that President Mugabe could use Presidential Powers (Temporary Measures) Act chapter 10: 20 to by-pass Parliament and enact the necessary amendments to the Electoral Act in order to comply with the July 31 deadline set by the Constitutional Court.
But this has come under scrutiny and critics say the new Constitution is clear on that and does not give such a provision hence it would be illegal if President Mugabe tried to by-pass Parliament that way.
Lawyer and advisor to PM Tsvangirai, Alex Magaisa, said among other things, in terms of section 157 of the new Constitution, electoral amendments can only be effected by an Act of Parliament and regulations made under the Presidential Powers (Temporary amendments) Act do not qualify as an Act of Parliament.
“As the preamble to the Presidential Powers Act confirms, it allows the President to make regulations but not to enact an Act of Parliament. It is a unilateral declaration of a law by the President probably in consultation with the Minister of Justice but certainly it would not have been presented or passed by both Houses of Parliament,” said Magaisa in a widely-circulated article.