Abolish Presidential temporary powers before elections

It was shocking to learn that Zimbabwe’s coalition Cabinet has approved the Electoral Amendment Bill which bars those in the Diaspora from voting in the next elections.

Even more scary is the possibility that the offending Bill could be fast-tracked through Parliament after it was gazetted on June 27 and become law soon.

We pray that the Parliamentary Legal Committee will find the intention of the Bill to be discriminatory and inconsistent with the Constitution.

The Bill is favouring those said to be in public service abroad while punishing those abroad who supported the country through remittance of billions of foreign currency and food at a time when Zimbabwe was on its knees. It would be a very BIG mistake if the Parliament passed the Bill in its present retrogressive form.

MPs may want to remember some mistakes of the first Parliament of Zimbabwe, which have had drastic consequences for the country, starting with the removal of dual citizenship from the Constitution.

This barred the Diaspora vote – contributing to the indecisive elections leading to today’s GNU. Then there was the amendment of the Constitution to provide for an executive presidency whose powers have caused serious problems including undermining the rule of law, human rights and coming to the rescue of Zanu (PF) party at election time.

For example Robert Mugabe has more electoral powers than over one million ordinary Zimbabweans by virtue of his presidential powers to appoint 30 parliamentarians. Six million voters can only choose less than 180 parliamentarians.

Legal efforts to reverse the militarization of elections suffered a major blow in 2002 after MDC president Morgan Tsvangirai requested that all staff members of the Electoral Supervisory Commission of the Registrar General who were members of the defence forces, police, or prison services ‘immediately’ cease to act in such capacity.

However, the ‘urgent chamber application’ made on 1 March 2002 was not proceeded with after the provisions of the Electoral Act were amended by Robert Mugabe on March 5, 2002 through Statutory Instrument No. 41D.

By 2001 President Robert Mugabe had legislated 450 times by decree through Statutory Instruments covering various Acts of Parliament including the Electoral Act (See The Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum Special Report:

Enforcing the Rule of Law in Zimbabwe, September 2001, page 22 of 56). As would be expected, said the ZHR NGO Forum, in such heavy use of Statutory Instruments, there have been errors and more worrying illegalities.

The prerogative of mercy is another area in which Robert Mugabe has “bent the law” to his own purposes. Of all his personal pardons, GN457A/2000 most angered ordinary Zimbabweans.

On 6 October 2000, the President amnestied those involved in political violence from the beginning of January to the end of July 2000, covering both the Constitutional Referendum and the General Election but reportedly declining

to include members of ZAPU imprisoned for some 15 years on similar charges. Some 1 300 people were thought to have been amnestied, but Government played down on the numbers.

Sometimes legal redress expected under the best practice model appears very straightforward only to be soon shrouded in mystery. For instance, in Buhera North, the High Court declared that the Zanu (PF) candidate, Kenneth Manyonda had not been duly elected, thereby vindicating the petitioner the MDC leader, Morgan Tsvangirai, however, Zanu (PF) appealed. After the appeal was filed, the tapes of the court record were stolen from a locked office at the High Court, and the judge’s notebooks mysteriously went missing and the case was never heard by the Supreme Court.

On December 8, 2000, after the legal process had begun, Mugabe attempted to Cancel all the MDC’s legal challenges to the June 2000 election results (Statutory Instrument 318/2000, Electoral Act (Modification) No3 Notice 2000 (Regulations), although it was not issued under the Presidential Powers.

It is therefore vital that, before elections, Zimbabwe should abolish or curtail the use of presidential temporary powers and amnesty for political crimes. – ©Clifford Chitupa Mashiri, Political Analyst: [email protected]

Post published in: Opinions & Analysis

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