Excessive abuse of presidential powers

HARARE - President Robert Mugabe is now running the country under an undeclared state of emergency by invoking sweeping presidential powers, openly encouraging violence with rhetoric invoking war and depicting opposition and civic groups as traitors, analysts said this week.

tical analysts said there was shocking judicial tampering and legislative engineering through the circumvention of Parliament by Mugabe’s excessive abuse of his presidential powers. Analysts said Mugabe’s continued use of the police to harass and torture opponents had effectively imposed a state of emergency through the backdoor. In this culture of impunity, violent threats against the country’s core democratic institutions, including the judiciary, have become commonplace.
“In almost every way, Mugabe is now running this country under an undeclared state of emergency,” said Dr. Lovemore Madhuku, a constitutional law lecturer at the University of Zimbabwe (UZ).
Madhuku, who is also chairman of the militant pressure group National Constitutional Assembly (NCA), was interviewed as he led a democracy march demanding a new constitution last week.
“Mugabe is using the Presidential Powers Act to amend existing laws and create new ones without having to put them to Parliament. The way he is operating, he does not need to declare a state of emergency,” he noted.
Mugabe has invoked his presidential powers three times this year alone. In July he signed into law a statutory instrument granting immunity to security officers, including the notorious youth militia, tasked with seizing currency and merchandise from innocent citizens. The cash search and seize operation, ostensibly aimed at crashing the black market, was widely condemned by countless human rights bodies as patently unconstitutional and illegal. But caution was thrown to the wind.
Mugabe is currently crafting a statutory instrument, which will further postpone the eagerly awaited Harare mayoral and council elections. His ruling Zanu (PF) party’s supreme decision-making body, the Politburo, has also unanimously adopted a resolution to use its two-thirds parliamentary majority to amend the constitution and delay presidential elections from 2008 to 2010.
Professor Greg Linington, a UZ constitutional law expert, said Zimbabwe was now under an unofficial state of emergency because of the way Mugabe abused his presidential powers.
“It is a very sad situation. The Presidential Powers Act enables President Mugabe to do exactly the same things he would do under the Emergency Powers Act in an official state of emergency,” said Linington.
“All regulations created by President Mugabe under the Act are unconstitutional,” said Linington, adding that he saw no reason why Zimbabwean courts should not adopt the South African constitutional court’s view of the presidential powers.
Prof. Welshman Ncube, another leading local constitutional law expert, said Mugabe was relying on the use of violence and coercive tactics to consolidate and maintain his iron-fisted 26-year rule. He said there was also a strong repressive backlash towards the opposition and its supporters in reaction to shows of discontent.
Ncube said Zimbabweans were now at the mercy of Mugabe and he could do whatever he wanted to trample on their fundamental rights.
“The Presidential Powers Act permits Mugabe to make whatever regulations he wants and even to repeal primary legislation instituted by Parliament. The safeguards against the abuse of the Act are so ineffectual as to be any safeguards at all,” said Ncube, who is also a senior official of the Mutambara-led faction of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC).
Analysts said Mugabe has also increasingly circumvented Parliament, ordering troop
deployments, ruling by decree and branding critics as “terrorists.”
In the past Mugabe has used the Presidential Powers Act to pass legislation banning private radio stations and regulating other broadcast media.
The same Act has banned strikes and been used to pardon perpetrators of political violence, most of them members of his ruling Zanu (PF) party. A ruling made under the Presidential Powers Act is valid for six months before it can be turned into draft legislation and put to Parliament.
Mugabe has also used the Act to take away the rights of white farmers to facilitate his
controversial land acquisition drive for black resettlement that he conveniently used as his re-election ticket.
His government recently announced plans to bulldoze through the House legislation that will empower him to snoop on private communications of citizens.
MDC legislator David Coltart urged the international community to start planning for the consequences of Mugabe postponing the elections.
Coltart said the Harare authorities have already made it clear that they would postpone elections to 2010.
Last week, Mugabe told off U.S. President George Bush and Britain Premier Tony Blair for “lecturing” him on human rights and the rule of law.
The EU, which Mugabe has accused of being a “Goliath”, has already set in motion a process leading to the Zimbabwe crisis being put on the UN Security Council agenda.

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