BILL WATCH 23/2012 Election Road Map on SADC Agenda

The House of Assembly has adjourned until Tuesday 5th June The Senate has adjourned until Tuesday 12th June

Election Roadmap and Timeframe Outlined in Parliament’s Last Sitting

Deputy Prime Minister Mutambara, was asked about the Election Roadmap during Questions Without Notice in the House of Assembly on 16th May. In reply he listed seven reform processes that must be completed before elections:

“What we want to do next time around is to make sure that when we go into elections, those elections will be respected by the winners and losers. The winners will be able to form a legitimate democratic Government and the losers are able to congratulate the winners. For us to do that, we must go through these reforms very carefully:

●constitution ● media reforms ● political reforms ● electoral reforms ● national healing ● security sector alignment ● economic reforms. These reforms require time and that time will determine when our elections will take place. Mr. Speaker Sir, I want us, across the political divide, to understand the importance of the creation of conditions for fairness and freeness of our elections and the need to achieve this.”

He then added “we cannot go beyond March 2013. In March 2013 this Parliament expires, in March 2013 Mugabe’s presidency expires. Consequently, this current Cabinet expires in March 2013. So, if you ask me about the ultimate deadline, the ultimate deadline is March 2013 … we cannot possibly go beyond March 2013. March 2013 is the end of the road.”

Comment: March 2013 is not the use-by-date of this Government – the correct position under the present constitutional provisions is that unless earlier dissolved by the President, Parliament will expire on 28th June 2013, at midnight, – which means that any reform legislation would have to be passed by the 28th June. We can only be 4 months without a Parliament, so elections would have to be by 28th October 2013 at the latest. President Mugabe’s current term could continue until election results come in, early November 2013. [See end of bulletin for constitutional provisions.]

Question: Was Deputy Prime Minister Mutambara talking for the inclusive government? Presumably he was, as Questions Without Notice in the House is reserved for Ministers to explain Government policy to MPs.

SADC Perspective

The Zimbabwe situation is on the agenda for the Troika Summit of the Organ on Politics Defence and Security Cooperation [Organ Troika] in Luanda, Angola, today 31st May, and it is likely that the Organ Troika will report on Zimbabwe either formally or informally to the SADC Heads of State Summit on Friday 1st June. The Organ Troika will consider:

• the report from SADC Facilitator, South African President Jacob Zuma – whose Facilitation Team was in Harare at the beginning of this week to discuss the Roadmap to Elections and any further progress made in implementing the GPA.

• the views of the three parties to the GPA, particularly about elections. [The parties have been doing the rounds in the region, lobbying for their varying positions.]

SADC Endorsed Zimbabwe Elections Roadmap

The SADC Organ Troika in March 2011 decided that SADC should assist Zimbabwe to formulate guidelines to assist in holding an election that will be peaceful, free and fair, in accordance with the SADC Principles and Guidelines Governing Democratic Elections [Zimbabwe is a party to these Principles and Guidelines] and that the Troika would appoint a team of officials to join the Facilitation Team and work with JOMIC to ensure monitoring, evaluation and implementation of the GPA. The Roadmap was drawn up by the negotiators and endorsed by SADC Summit:

“At the Extraordinary SADC Summit of Heads of State and Government held at Sandton, Johannesburg, Republic of South Africa on 11th and 12th July, 2011, the SADC Facilitator on Zimbabwe, His Excellency, Jacob G. Zuma, President of the Republic of South Africa, tabled a report on the progress made in the implementation of the Global Political Agreement (GPA) in Zimbabwe. Attached to the SADC Facilitator’s Report was the document titled Roadmap to Zimbabwe’s Elections concluded and signed by the negotiators at Harare on the 22nd April, 2011. The Roadmap to Zimbabwe’s Elections identified and defined milestones and signposts that must be executed and implemented before the next Harmonised Elections.” [Roadmap available from [email protected]]

Election Road Map Agreed with SADC Not Nearly Fulfilled

It is eleven months since the party negotiators agreed on the Roadmap to Elections stipulating both the new constitution and reforms as a prerequisite to the elections. As pointed out by the DPM in Parliament last week there has been no serious progress tackling reforms. The constitution-making process is incomplete; there has been no reform of media laws. ZANU-PF has maintained its control of state media. The airwaves have not been opened up to long established stations now having to broadcast from outside Zimbabwe, nor to community broadcasting. Little political reform has taken place – de facto power and control of national resources is still with the former ruling party, which together with their control of the security forces, gives it an edge when it comes to elections. The far reaching electoral reforms needed to level the playing field for the election contest are still awaited. There has been limited economic progress.

Common Agreement on Need for Reforms before Elections?

Most stakeholders in the Zimbabwe situation have not changed their long-held stance that there must be implementation of reforms and a new constitution before the next elections – this is clear from the GPA and is still the view of:

• the negotiators of all three parties [they all signed the Roadmap to Elections]

• the SADC Facilitator and his team

• the Organ Troika of March 2011 and SADC Summit of July 2011

• the inclusive government as reported by the DPM in Parliament [but see recent ZANU-PF stance below]

• MDC-T and MDC.

But recently ZANU-PF has been taking a diametrically opposed standpoint [in the President’s speeches, reports of politburo and central committee meetings and statements by ZANU-PF Ministers, though not in Parliament], insisting on elections in 2012, with or without a new constitution and reforms.

Need for these Reforms Accentuated by UN Human Rights Commissioner

UN Human Rights Commissioner Navi Pillay, ending her five-day visit arranged by the Government of Zimbabwe, stressed the need for reforms before the next elections: “Concern is rising both inside and outside the country that, unless the parties agree quickly on some key major reforms …the next election which is due some time in the coming year could turn into a repeat of the 2008 elections which resulted in rampant politically motivated human rights abuses, including killings, torture, rapes, beatings, arbitrary detention, displacements and other violations.”… “I believe that it is essential that a satisfactory new Constitution with an entrenched Bill of Rights is in place soon, so that the referendum to confirm it and all the electoral reforms necessary for a peaceful, free and fair election can be carried out before people go to the polls. Realistically this will take time, but it will be more important to get it right than to rush the process.”

Last Possible Dates for Elections

When does the present Parliament expire?

The 5-year Parliamentary life-span is calculated from the date President Mugabe was sworn in [29th June 2008], not from the date of the last Parliamentary election, which was in March 2008. The relevant constitutional provisions are:

• section 63(4) – which states that, unless earlier dissolved by Presidential proclamation, Parliament “shall last for five years, which period shall be deemed to commence on the day the person elected as President enters office”

• section 28(5) – which states that the President enters office on the date he is sworn in

Ultimate deadline for the next elections: November 2013

Under the present Constitution, Presidential, Parliamentary and local authority elections must be held within four months after the dissolution of Parliament. If Parliament only expires on 28th June, the ultimate deadline for polling in the next harmonised elections – Presidential, Parliamentary and local government – will therefore be 28th October 2013 [Constitution, sections 58(1) and section 28(3)].

When will the President go out of office?

Section 29(1) states that the President’s term of office is a period of five years concurrent with the life of Parliament referred to in section 63(4) subject to the proviso that the President will continue in office until the swearing-in of whoever is elected President in the next Presidential election. So in theory President Mugabe’s present term could extend until the winner of an October 2013 Presidential election is declared and sworn in.

Post published in: Politics

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