On the Proclamation of Election Dates
We must work together. Remedies to our problems will come from Zimbabweans.
Prof. Arthur G.O. Mutambara, Deputy Prime Minister of Zimbabwe
14th June 2013, Harare, Zimbabwe
Once again we continue to plunge forward into unnecessary and avoidable conflict on matters of the State. There is dearth of leadership across the political divide. Just to emphasize the position I re-stated on the 6th of June 2013.
“All the problematic implementation issues with the Constitutional Court ruling should be addressed by first committing to complying with the judgment. We should solve these compliance challenges as a collective Team Zimbabwe, not by scoring partisan points against each in period of a potential constitutional crisis. We will certainly not get far by appealing to players external to Zimbabwe, without first respecting ourselves, our nationhood and our own constitutional democracy. Foreigners can only nudge us to talk and find each other. The compliance dialogue should have started on 31st May 2013 among Zimbabweans, across the political divide.”
We have now lost two weeks out of the two months we were given by the Constitutional Court. All we have done so far is bicker among ourselves and avoid productive national dialogue. The Principals meeting of the 10th of June 2013 did not take place, because the Prime Minister was not available. We also did not meet as Principals after Cabinet on Tuesday the 11th of June 2013. All this was unfortunate. This is not leadership at all. Zimbabwean citizens deserve better. I explicitly sought to get leaders to talk, with very little success. Now, the proclamation of the election dates has been done without sufficient dialogue. There is enough blame to go around the Zimbabwean political leadership table.
This has been a missed opportunity. We could have done a lot to lower the tension in the country and bring our people together. Where did we go wrong? I would have preferred a broader compliance conversation before the action taken by the President. If there was a legal mechanism or possibility of varying the decision of the Constitutional Court, thus extending the election period beyond 31st July 2013, this should have been explored during that collective dialogue. This remedy, if any such possibility existed, could only have come through an all-inclusive, Team Zimbabwe spirit and approach which puts President Mugabe at the center of the initiative. Only through him, as President of the Republic of Zimbabwe, could any avenues been investigated or considered, of varying an uncorrectable final decision from the Constitutional Court, the final arbiter in our land. I am not even certain whether any such legal remedy existed. But if it did, the President had to be part of it. You certainly do not address this imponderable by being confrontational to a person who is your key partner to a potential solution. More significantly, you do not achieve much by insulting the judges of the Constitutional Court and then proceeding to file numerous counter but vexatious urgent court cases in the very same Court. Really? What outcome do you expect from the court system through such reckless and contradictory efforts? This business of banking and waiting on SADC without concentrating on internal processes also led us astray. What is it that SADC will tell us to do that we already do not know? Why wait for SADC? Where is our collective self-respect? Within individual SADC member states they respect their own laws. They value their sovereignty and defend their territorial integrity. Why would they want to prescribe to Zimbabwe, what they do not accept internally? Does the SADC constituting law allow that? These are questions we chose not to answer.
Now that the proclamation of election dates has been made, what do we do? While I would have preferred a much more consultative, and an all-stakeholder process, I have to concede that no Zimbabwean laws have been broken by the President in his efforts to comply with the Constitutional Court. The amendments to the Electoral Act were by negotiations among the GPA Political Parties. They were further reviewed, adjusted and then adopted by Cabinet on the 11th of June 2013. The amendments have now been brought into law by Presidential decree as opposed to through Parliament. This is regrettable but unavoidable, given the time constraints. All the agreed changes in the Electoral Act have been kept, including the position that Voter Registration continues until the 9th of July 2013. The only adjustment made was that voter registration continues 12 days after the Elections Nomination date of 28th of June 2013, as opposed to ending before nomination. There is possibility here of disadvantaging potential election candidates who delay their registration as voters. We must mitigate this challenge. In particular, we must emphasize that all aspiring candidates must register as voters by the 28th of June 2013.
We must now concentrate on working within the election framework we now have in the country. Elections are now on the 31st of July 2013. There is no point in taking legal action against this dispensation by appealing to the same judges we have been insulting. Neither is it prudent to expect SADC to overturn our constitutional democracy. The first task is to ensure that every Zimbabwean who is eligible to vote must be given an opportunity to vote. This means we must carry out effective voter registration in the limited time we have. Secondly, the election itself must be conducted in a conducive, peaceful, free and fair environment. Peace, freeness and fairness must be guaranteed before the vote, during the voting, in the process of counting, and after the entire election process, leading to a credible, legitimate and undisputed outcome. In order to achieve these two key objectives; effective voter registration and a legitimate election; we need to understand that time is just one of many critical variables. Yes, we need time and it is in very short supply. However, political will, cooperation, dialogue, inclusiveness, Team Zimbabwe spirit, leadership, resourcefulness, administrative competence and resources are just as important, if not more critical. Time alone will not deliver reforms. If the reforms have not been delivered in four and half years, what makes one think they will be delivered in three months? Reforms require political will and cooperation among the GPA parties. Even if the elections are held in October 2013, in the absence of the requisite leadership, political will, decisiveness, resources, and national commitment, we will still face an election with incomplete reforms and an unsatisfactory voter’s roll.
Let us get down to work as Team Zimbabwe. We are not in the best of circumstances. We have no choice, but to work together and deliver a credible, free and fair election on the 31st of July 2013. We have to be masters of our own destiny. SADC can only assist and facilitate us within this given framework.
I thank you
Arthur G.O. Mutambara
Deputy Prime Minister, Republic of Zimbabwe