Mugabe triggers moves to outlive transitional government

His Zanu PF party which has ruled Zimbabwe since independence in 1980 called an emergency meeting of its parliamentarians on Wednesday and resolved to have the constitutional making process which is expected to culminate in the holding of elections, delayed.

Zanu PF Chief Whip Joram Gumbo announced on state TV on Wednesday night that his party’s parliamentary caucus had come up with this resolution because the country did not have the money to finance the constitutional making process.

"We have resolved to postpone the holding of the regional All Stakeholders Conferences because there has not been enough preparation and there is no money to finance them.

"There is no money coming from government, the political parties or any other organizations to finance this process. As you know it will involve a lot of travelling of people to attend these conferences – and also for other logistics – but there is no money," said Gumbo.

But political analysts have refused to buy Zanu PF’s excuse and say their fears of Mugabe’s long conceived plot to "pull a fast one" on his worst political enemy Morgan Tsvangirai were beginning to be vindicated.

They said in interviews on Thursday that the latest manoeuvres by Zanu PF were the first step of what was going to be a protracted battle to have a new constitution put in place to allow for elections.

University of Zimbabwe professor of political science Dr John Makumbe said: "We knew this was coming. Mugabe is not ready to let go of power and he is not going to do so. His trick is to delay elections until he completes a full five-year term which ends 2013.

"The MDC is naïve to believe the old fox is going to put himself on the hammer inside two years. He knows he will not win and he will simply delay the elections until at least 2013."

Dr Lovemore Madhuku Zimbabwe’s renowned constitutional lawyer and leader of the National Constitutional Assembly (NCA) said Mugabe’s ‘treacherous manipulations’ were bolstered by the fact that the GPA did not a give specific lifespan to the inclusive government.

"Mugabe and his party definitely do not want elections before 2013 and they will use all sorts of excuses including delaying the constitutional making process to achieve that objective.

"And, in their favour is the fact that the GPA does not pronounce that the existing arrangement will be transitional. It (GPA) simply says the parties will review it (transitional government) after the constitution making process.

"So Mugabe can choose to go beyond the two years that the GPA suggests elections will be held because he is not legally bound to it," said Madhuku.

Madhuku said his NCA had refused to be part of the constitutional making process because the transitional government would simply manipulate and delay the process since it was in control.

"The other thing is that Mugabe took oath of office on June 29 2008 after his one-man election. So legally, according to the existing constitution, he is entitled to a five-year term. Likewise, Parliament and the government have a legal five-year term from June 29.

"That is why they insist on controlling the process so that they can delay the new constitution which threatens to cut short their reign on power."

MDC legislator Advocate Eric Matinenga who is the Minister of Constitutional and Parliamentary Affairs said although it was true the GPA gave no life span to the transitional government, his party would do everything in its power to bring elections within two years.

"We are aware of the hanging instructions of the GPA and that it’s suggestions for elections in two years have no legal effect. But we are in the constitutional making process and we will fight any attempts to delay the process.

"Our aim as a party is to bring democracy to this country. The people need to choose who will govern them and effective governance is what the MDC is looking for. I can assure you that elections will take place not in five years but as soon as a new Constitution is in place," minister Matinenga said.

The GPA stipulates that the select committee heading the process be established by April 12 after which the first All Stakeholders Conference is held within three months. The select committee is now in place and regional first stakeholders’ conferences were expected to start now and to culminate in the national All Stakeholders Conference in mid July.

After the conference, there would be four months of formal consultations taking up to mid-November after which the writing of the constitution would begin. The draft constitution is expected to be ready by mid-February 2010 when a second All Stakeholders Conference would be convened to look at the draft against what the people would have said.

Thereafter the draft would be taken to parliament, to the President and then to a referendum. If, as expected, the referendum delivers a ‘Yes’ vote, the constitution is signed into law and elections are held. Citypress