Zimbabwe’s Mnangagwa rejects church’s proposal on elections

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President Emmerson Mnangagwa, pictured, who replaced long-time ruler Robert Mugabe in July ©Getty Images

PRESIDENT Mnangagwa has rejected proposals by the Zimbabwe Heads of Christian Denominations (ZHOCD) to have a seven-year moratorium on elections saying secular systems are run on laws which are bound by constitutions and statutes.

In a 19-page response to ZHOCD delivered yesterday, Mnangagwa expressed gratitude to the church leaders’ willingness to search for solutions that can take the nation forward, but emphasised that all ideas, proposals and practices should be in compliance with the laws of the land.

“Expectedly, my Government’s response to the ZHOCD document is shaped by, and has to be understood in the context of legal imperatives arising from Zimbabwe’s own laws, principally the Constitution which is the supreme law of the Land.

“Let me emphatically state, at the outset, that my office is a creature of the Constitution and laws of Zimbabwe, both which I am sworn to uphold, defend, obey and respect to their letter and spirit,” the Mnangagwa said.

According to the State media response follows a letter written to him by Dr Kenneth Mtata of ZHCOD, which requested that the nation “takes a sabbath period of seven years from all forms of political contestation.”

Dr Mtata’s letter, which was accompanied by a document titled “Call for national Sabbath for trust and confidence building,” proposed the suspension of the constitutional provisions on elections and the holding of a referendum on the structure of a new government.

Contacted yesterday, Dr Mtata confirmed receiving the response from Mnangagwa saying; “Yes, I have received the correspondence, but right now I am at a funeral. You should have called earlier because right now I cannot talk because I am at a funeral.”

In his detailed response to the ZCHOD document, President Mnangagwa cited the opening Chapter of the Constitution of Zimbabwe Amendment (No.20) Act 2013 that underlines that; “This Constitution is the supreme law of Zimbabwe and any law, practice, custom or conduct inconsistent with it is invalid to the extent of the inconsistency.”

He further referred to the same opening chapter, which states that the obligations imposed by the constitution bind every person, natural or juristic, including the State and all executive, legislative and judicial institutions and agencies of Government at every level.

The President said the principles of good governance, which bind the State and all institutions and agencies of Government at every level, include a multiparty democratic political system, universal adult suffrage and equality of votes; free, fair and regular elections, orderly transfer of power following election, respect to the rights of all political parties; observance of the separation of powers and respect for the people of Zimbabwe, from whom the authority to govern is derived.

“Chapter 5 of our Constitution provides for the Executive Authority of Zimbabwe which I lead as President. Section 88 (1) provides as follows:

“Executive authority derives from the people of Zimbabwe and must be exercised in accordance with this Constitution,” President Mnangagwa said.

He added that Section 90 (1) obliges the President to: “…. uphold, defend, obey and respect this Constitution as the supreme law of the nation” and to “ensure that this Constitution and all the other laws are faithfully observed.”

The President said the proposals by leaders of the ZHOCD ought to be consistent and compatible with the letter and spirit of the land- the Constitution. Anything ultra vires the Constitution, would not pass the overarching test of constitutionality.

Given the various provisions relating to executive authority and the fact that all such powers are derived from the people Zimbabwe and should be exercised in accordance with the constitution, President Mnangagwa said there was thus no reward to be derived from any attenuation, suspension, departure, let alone overthrow, of any or all of the key values and principles.

He said the idea of declaring a moratorium on the people’s right to vote for national leaders of their choice on the basis of challenges being faced in the country was as unpalatable as was the subversion of the very Constitution all Zimbabweans passed, and are sworn to uphold, respect and defend.

“Our July 2018 harmonised elections were adjudged to be largely transparent, free, fair and credible expression of the will of the people of Zimbabwe. They were held in a peaceful environment, with my Party and myself preaching unity, peace and love in our Nation as we prepared to vote.

“The unfortunate incidents of violence which broke out on August 1, after our polls, was premediated and sponsored by the opposition, MDC-Alliance. Still, that deadly, post-election violence was treated very seriously by my Administration, leading to the establishment of the Motlanthe Commission of Inquiry,” the President said.

Prior to the announcement of the election results, he said, the MDC-Alliance had made it plain and public that it was ready to reject any result that would not hand over victory to it. The opposition party  had also vowed to intensify its campaign for illegal sanctions against Zimbabwe, underlining its perverse pleasure in Zimbabwe’s continued economic decline.

Cde Mnangagwa said the same opposition party continues to campaign for sanctions and has taken a stance against the country’s economic recovery and re-engagement with the international community.

He urged the church leaders to distinguish between genuine failures, faults and/or shortfalls in the country’s processes and systems of governance and on the other hand the willful acts of treachery, premediated lawlessness and violence which must never be condoned or rewarded through undeserved recognition or accommodation.

“Political violence must be frowned upon and sanctioned by all to ensure the all-important ethic of magnanimity in victory, and grace, honour and respect in defeat. The solution to our challenges cannot subsist in robbing the winner of his victory and popular mandate in order to hand it over or split a portion of it as reward to an ungracious loser, whose first reflex is to resort to political violence as a negotiating tool.”

Mnangagwa said in essence the church leaders were asking him and his party ZANU-PF to repudiate the will of the Zimbabwean people by surrendering the constitutional mandate they bestowed in the July 2018 harmonised elections in order to accommodate a losing party, and out of fear that it might become more violent in the future, as it regularly threatens, and that it might withhold its cooperation with the winner, as it already is doing, so as to press for an extra-electoral political settlement.

Dismissing the notion of a seven-year Sabbath, the President said the church’s submission was odd and incongruous when read against the cardinal value and principle at the heart of constitutionalism. He said the proposal was tantamount to inviting the President to be a co-conspirator in the overthrow of the very Constitution which is sworn to uphold, respect and defend.

The President found it cynical that the invitation by a section of the clergy was being made and justified in the name of the very people who passed the same Constitution, and who granted the President executive authority to run Government for a full term of five years which ends in 2023.

He said while his Government recognises the unchallenged role of the church in administering to the spiritual needs of the citizenry and that the same church has broadened its role to include other duties ordinarily the prerogative of the State in the areas of welfare, health and education; Government is equally aware that elsewhere in other jurisdictions, organisations and persons have ventured into the political domain to contest for political office.

“It is regrettable that as I respond to your proposals, many political forces-local and global- now seek to turn your initiative into a proverbial Trojan Horse behind which to gain legitimacy, and to further premediate plans to keep our nation distracted, disturbed and destabilised,” the President said as he poured cold water on the biblical reference to the moratorium as Sabbath.

He said he was not sure whether beyond the Old Testament, the ZHOCD’s notion and use of the Sabbath would survive the scrutiny or interrogation, even in biblical terms. The President said the New Testament has significant instances where the same notion of the Sabbath took different dimensions and meaning, all to deal with exigencies faced at different times.

“My call to the MDC-A leader to partner me in the post-election Zimbabwe- a call he rebuffed- amounted to a reinterpretation of the Sabbath away from winner-takes-all principle in electoral politics. Equally, my offer to change the laws of the country- not to suspend them- in order to create an Office of the Leader of the Opposition in national politics, was yet another gesture at healing in Sabbath day, much against the whims and zeal of political Pharisees.”

Mnangagwa reminded the church leaders that his offer and launch of the Political Actors Dialogue (POLAD), which the MDC leader again spurned, was yet another attempt at adapting the Sabbath to pressing national needs, even at the expense of his own exclusive electoral mandate.

On the independence of institutions, the President told leaders of ZHOCD that the church leaders prefer to take hook, line and sinker the view of some political actors who allege partisanship on the part of such institutions as the judiciary when it passes judgement against them, but remain silent when the very courts rule in their favour.

In respect of the security sector, principally the military, the President urged the church leaders to make a distinction between the emergency operations, which arose soon after July 2018 polls, and again in January 2019, with the situation currently obtaining in the country. He said while the military had to be summoned to deal with the attempted insurrection by the MDC-A after election, subsequent threats to the country’s law and order have been competently dealt with in terms of the law, and through appropriate agencies.

“It is thus incorrect to suggest that the military are out of their barracks presently, and that they need to be quartered back. We are alive to the spurious arguments for the so-called security sector reforms by interests which are opposed to the liberation traditions of our Security Establishment.

“I cannot succumb to such treacherous demands against our Security Establishment, while still claiming to be the custodian of the legacy of our liberation struggle.”

Mnangagwa said his administration has set up the National Peace and Reconciliation Commission, which is engaging all stakeholders, including civil society and churches, in order to broaden the democratic space and to address some of the sore legacy issues afflicting the broader Zimbabwean society. He said his administration has for the first time in the history of the country, allowed an open debate on the Gukurahundi issues and has worked with all stakeholders under the Matabeleland Collective.

He called for some introspection on the part of the ZHCOD’s leadership whose document shows some kind of reluctance in holding the opposition to scrutiny and to account for its actions. The proposal, he said seems to aver that political outcomes are at the mercy of losers whose complaints, however frivolous or unjustified, must occasion and be cured by fundamental changes to the way the country is  governed.

On political reforms,

Mnangagwa said Government was already undertaking the reforms for the country’s good and not to please any external parties. He said his administration is in the process of repealing some of the laws that had been found to be inconsistent with the country’s Constitution and general democratic principles.

Since the submission of the ZHCOD document, another document titled “The Platform for Concerned Citizens (PCC)” has since emerged. The alleged progenitor of the PCC are Dr Frances Lovemore of Counselling Services Unit, Jestina Mukoko and prominent writer Tsitsi Dangarmbgwa- all revealing a clearly choreographed strategy to spotlight Zimbabwe ahead of the SADC anti-sanctions campaign on October 25. thezimmail

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