By Gift Phiri
HARARE – Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai has said elections can only be held in September as President Robert Mugabe insisted on his June 29 poll declaration.
The PM’s preferred poll timeline emerged in court papers concerning a court application where Mugabe is seeking to be excused from proclaiming by-elections in three vacant parliamentary constituencies.
In a letter sent Thursday to Tsvangirai from Mugabe’s attorney, deputy Attorney-General Advocate Prince Machaya, the veteran leader said he was sticking with his preferred timeline. “We advise that we did not change our position in court,” Machaya said in an April 4 letter to Tsvangirai.
Mugabe on March 22 filed an urgent chamber application seeking to be excused from complying with a court order that forces him to proclaim dates for three Matabeleland by-elections by end of March, arguing it would be expensive for the cash-strapped government to stage the three ballots three months ahead of a general election which he told the court must be held by June 29.
But Mugabe’s coalition partner and MDC presidential candidate Tsvangirai argued that the June poll date was not feasible.
He filed an application in the High Court last Thursday requesting that he be included in the matter as the fourth respondent together with three former legislators Abednico Bhebhe, Njabuliso Mguni and Norman Mpofu, who want their vacant constituencies filled through by-elections in their constituencies.
But Tsvangirai was yesterday forced to withdraw his application after Judge President George Chiweshe said the dispute between Mugabe and the three former MDC legislators did not involve him.
“I am interested in finding out on whether we should have by-elections or not and I am not here to decide on the general election date. The Prime Minister has nothing to do with the holding of by-elections,” Justice Chiweshe said.
According to an opposing affidavit that had been filed by Tsvangirai’s proxy minister Jameson Timba ahead of the High Court hearing, the PM suggested a September 16 poll date. Tsvangirai had said Mugabe’s projected June 29 timeline was impossible.
Following the gazetting of the Constitution Bill on March 28, debate on the Bill is expected to be concluded by May 16, then the resultant bill will be published on May 17 in the Government Gazette.
Between May and June 18, there will be intensive voter registration for 30 days followed by voter inspection and production of the final voters’ roll by July 18.
The PM envisages that the harmonised elections will be proclaimed on July 19, then the Nomination Court sits on August 5, which will be 14 days from the proclamation day in terms of the Electoral Act.
The Act allows for 30 days from the day the Nomination Court sits, meaning elections will be held on September 16. “It must also be noted that various laws, not just the Electoral Act, must also be aligned with the new constitution,” the PM said in his court papers.
“In terms of the GPA, the implementation of agreed reforms, for example media reforms, codes of conduct and regulations for elections, must precede the conduct of a harmonised election.” Daily News