The current Parliament of Zimbabwe and the government will expire in June next year and elections must be held before then, with or without a new constitution, Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara revealed in Washington DC at the weekend.
Mutambara, attending the launch of the Zimbabwe Diaspora Home-Front Interface Initiative, said the current Lancaster House Constitution sets the duration of the parliament as a function of the presidency and the current president who was sworn in on June 28, 2008.
Currently the political parties in the inclusive government are haggling over the final draft of a new constitution, with President Robert Mugabe threatening to ditch the stalled new constitution and hold elections under the current constitution.
Mutambara told the VOA that if the political parties fail to agree on a new constitution, then elections will have to be held without reforms no later than June 28, which he warns may lead to a disputed outcome.
“If we don’t make progress by June 28, 2013, we will be forced to go into an election without a new constitution.
“SADC (Southern African Development Community) can encourage us to work together but the African Union and SADC cannot force us to violate the constitution. There is no way that SADC and the AU can extend the Zimbabwean government and the Zimbabwean parliament beyond June 28, 2013,” Mutambara said.
The deputy prime minister said he would prefer constitutional and electoral reforms to be in place before the next elections, adding that “if we don’t do that we are going towards acrimony and I don’t desire to have elections on the Lancaster House Constitution.”
But the chairman of the National Constitutional Assembly, Lovemore Madhuku, told the VOA that while it is correct to say that parliament will be dissolved by June 28, the government has four additional months, meaning that elections would be needed by October 20.
The constitutional expert said there will be no parliament after June 28 but just the executive arm of the government.
“The president is allowed to remain in office until a new president takes office and that must be done within four months of that period.
“So by about October 28 there must be elections but those elections are what is allowed for purposes of allowing the processes for an election but parliament will not be able to do anything after 28 June.”
Madhuku said this situation must be avoided as it is not good to have the executive run government affairs when there is no legal parliament in place.
A senior researcher at the Research and Advocacy Unit in Zimbabwe, Derek Matyszak, also agreed that the requirement for elections is four months after the dissolution of parliament, but says the only time that the life of parliament can be extended is if there is a national security threat.
He said: “Mutambara seems to be unaware that elections don’t have to take place for another four months after the dissolution of parliament.
“The only way that it can be extended is if there is a declaration of war or if there is a declaration of a state of emergency, or if there is a constitutional amendment to extend the life of parliament.”
Both Madhuku and Matyszak said there is no legal requirement for a new constitution to be in place before elections.
Meanwhile, Movement for Democratic Change leader Welshman Ncube said his party is prepared to go for general elections, even if Zimbabwe fails to adopt a new constitution.
Speaking to journalists after a party rally at Maboleni Township in Lower Gweru on Sunday, Ncube, who had earlier told his supporters that it is difficult to craft a new constitution under what he labeled a “dictatorship,” said if the country fails to have a new constitution soon, Zimbabweans can always work on having one in future.
Ncube blasted Zanu PF for wanting to impose its will on others, adding that his party would rather go for polls under the current constitution than an undemocratic charter.