President Emmerson Mnangagwa has written back to churches’ call to suspend general elections in Zimbabwe for seven years to give the Southern African state time to find a unified approach in solving issues bedevilling it, saying the country is run on laws which are bound by constitutions and statutes.
Zimbabwean churches under the Zimbabwe Heads of Christian Denominations (ZHOCD) syndicate earlier this month proposed for an election sabbath, arguing that all political players should join hands in fixing the current national crisis and adapt to a new culture of cooperation in nation-building and peace as opposed to partisan blame-gaming and electioneering which tends to produce arrogant winners and biter losers.
But President Mnangagwa has rejected the proposal for the moratorium, saying secular systems are run on laws which are bound by constitutions and statutes. In his 19-page response to the delivered on Sunday, the President 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 President said.
His Excellence cited the opening Chapter of the Constitution of Zimbabwe Amendment (No.20) Act 2013 that underlines that the“Constitution is the supreme law of Zimbabwe and any law, practise, 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.
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 the church leaders 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. He 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.
He said prior to the announcement of the election results the Advocate Nelson Chamisa-led MDC had made it plain and public that it was ready to reject any result that would not hand over victory to it.
Mr Mnangagwa also 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, premeditated 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.”
President 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.
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