Mugabe acted like Ian Smith during UDI – Coltart

Radio Dialogue

By Makhosi Sibanda

14 June 2013

MDC secretary for legal affairs, David Coltart has likened President Mugabe’s action of unilaterally proclaiming the July 31 general election date to that of Rhodesian colonial leader Ian Smith during the infamous Unilateral Declaration of Independence (UDI) in 1965.

President Mugabe on Thursday fast-tracked changes to electoral laws and proclaimed the election date using his presidential powers act to by-pass parliament to comply with a constitutional court order to hold elections by July 31.

Addressing journalists during the Bulawayo Press Club on Thursday night, Coltart said those behind the proclamation of the election dates seem to have not learnt a lesson from 2008, as they are thinking that they can go ahead with elections on their own and simply disregard the major political and regional players.

“That is precisely what Smith thought when he declared the UDI, he assumed that he will have white leaders snubbing the rest of the world and support him, that was the arrogance then. The great irony for me is that this action is the exactly the same.

“This action goes against the majority of the people in this county want, it goes against what Sadc wantsand it certainly goes against what the broader international community wants and it will come to the same grief that Ian Smith and his Rhodesian Front experienced,” said Coltart.

The Rhodesian UDI attracted widespread international condemnation and the first instance of economic sanctions in the history of the United Nations (UN).

The Presidential Powers (Temporary Measures) (Amendment of Electoral Act) Regulations, 2013, Statutory Instrument 85 of 2013 has since been gazetted.

The extra-ordinary Gazette further proclaims that the nomination starts on 28 June 2013.

“We have a serious constitutional dilemma in that we had to comply with constitutional judgement and an obligation to respect the constitution.

“It was constitutionally impossible to comply with the judgement to have an election by 31 July,” said Coltart.

The move by President Mugabe to proclaim the election dates has reportedly caused panic within Mugabe’s partners in the inclusive government with MDC-T leader and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai rejecting the date, saying the president acted “unconstitutionally”.

Tsvangirai and Professor Welshman Ncube have been pushing for access by all political parties to the state broadcaster and security sector reforms before the polls.

This proclamation will bring intrigue during the SADC meeting on Saturday in Mozambique’s capital Maputo.

In issuing an election proclamation, the President was obliged to act on the advice of the Cabinet and this is laid down by section 31H of the Lancaster House Constitution, a provision that is still in force.