Zimbabwe: AU Speaks On Election Date

THE African Union says only Zimbabweans can resolve any contestation over their election date as it was not proper for anyone else to second-guess the country's courts.

Addressing a Press Conference in Geneva, Switzerland, yesterday, African Union Commission chairperson Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma said the only question should be whether the polls are free and fair.

"The courts have said the elections must take place. And so do we listen to the courts? Or do we not listen to the courts?

"I thought a lot of you have always been talking to us about the rule of law and respect for the Judiciary," Reuters quoted Dr Dlamini-Zuma as saying.

"So I don't know. The Zimbabweans must sort it out, whether they listen to the Judiciary and go with what the Judiciary has said, or whether they ignore it."

The Constitutional Court ruled, with a crushing majority of seven judges assenting to two dissenting, that harmonised elections be held by July 31 in the wake of an application by Mr Jealousy Mawarire of the Centre for Elections and Democracy who wanted the court to compel President Mugabe to proclaim the election date before the expiry of the life of the Seventh Parliament.

The AU, she said, plans to send observers to monitor the elections as the most important question was whether the voting was free and fair.

"And of course their economy is also picking up, which is good, so we wish them the best, and if the elections go well I think it will augur well for Zimbabwe," Dr Dlamini-Zuma added.

The AU chief spoke as seven political parties yesterday petitioned President Mugabe to press ahead with harmonised elections on July 31 saying the Constitutional Court ruling ordering polls by that date should be adhered to.

Speaking after handing over a petition to Acting President Joice Mujuru for onward transmission to President Mugabe who was on a one-day trip to Botswana, the political parties pleaded with the Head of State and Government and Commander-in-Chief of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces to proclaim equal funding amounting to US$2 million for each political party.

They argued that the enactment of the new Constitution rendered the Political Parties Finance Act which governs the distribution of State funds to political parties null and void.

The Political Parties Finance Act provides for funding of political parties that garner at least five percent of the seats in the House of Assembly, and in the last election only Zanu-PF, MDC-T and MDC passed that threshold.

The petitioners were the Zimbabwe Development Party led by Mr Kisinoti Mukwazhe, Mr Everest Chikanga's Rebuild Party of Zimbabwe, Good People's Movement led by Dr Gadzamoyo Dewa, Mr Egypt Dzinemunenzwa's African National Party, the Zimbabwe Organised Open Party led by Mr Paul Gotora, Reverend Gerald Mubaira's Multiracial Christian Democrats and the United People's Party led by Reverend Kuratidza Sandati.

"We have no problem with the date of the elections, but the Political Parties Finance Act is not in harmony with the new Constitution," said Mr Mukwazhe, the spokesperson for the political parties.

"We are urging your office to assist us to get funds for our political parties in order to promote multi-party democracy in our country."

Acting President Mujuru thanked the political parties for seeking a local solution to the challenges facing the country and pledged to hand the petition to President Mugabe.

"I agreed to meet with you this afternoon only to receive the petition, as I have done, because His Excellency has travelled," she said.

"He is coming this evening and that is the first thing I will present to him on his arrival."

Acting President Mujuru hailed the political parties for advocating respect for the law by insisting on polls by July 31, the election deadline set by the country's highest court.

"It is very important to observe the laws of our country and being able to think like Zimbabweans," she said. "We have the courts and we have set laws for ourselves; we must adhere to these laws. It is good to discuss our things in a harmonious way."

In their petition, the political parties said: "While we appreciate the setting of dates for elections and for the Nomination Court we find it constitutional to go ahead with the election only if minimum requirements for fair and free election are met.

"Without giving other political parties funds, the election's credibility will be questionable. We request that each party should, therefore, receive funding of which we propose a minimum of US$2 million. This money is required immediately not later than 19th of June 2013 to allow parties to adequately prepare for Nomination Court and to enable ample time to roll out operations before the forthcoming harmonised elections."

They argued that funding of other political parties besides Zanu-PF and the MDC formations that have representation in Parliament would level the playing field.

"We are a country and we believe we can solve our internal problems as a people joined together by our sovereignty," reads the petition.

President Mugabe set July 31 for the harmonised elections after the Constitutional Court ruled in favour of Zaka East-registered Mr Jealous Mawarire who wanted them to be held by June 29.

MDC-T leader Mr Morgan Tsvangirai is against holding the elections on July 31 arguing that there are some "reforms" that still need to be carried and say the elections should be held on August 25.

But observers are wondering as to what kind of reforms could be carried out within a month when Mr Tsvangirai failed to push them during the four and half years he was in the inclusive Government.

A Sadc extra-ordinary meeting in Maputo over the weekend upheld the July 31 elections date, but said Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa could also approach the Constitutional Court, on behalf of Government, to seek an extension.

But the onus is on the Constitutional Court to extend the deadline or refuse and the decision it makes should bind all political parties.

Africa: AU Speaks On Election Date

African Union says only Zimbabweans can resolve any contestation over their election date