3 October 2012

Zimbabwe: Court Okays 2013 Poll Dates

Photo: This Day
Symbol of justice

PRESIDENT Mugabe's application that all by-elections be held during the harmonised elections slated for March next year has been granted.

Judge President George Chiweshe yesterday extended dates for by-elections in three vacant Matabeleland House of Assembly constituencies to March next year. President Mugabe was expected to publish by-election dates for Nkayi South, Lupane East and Bulilima East by October 1, but his lawyer Advocate Ray Goba successfully obtained an order for the extension.

Yesterday's ruling by the Judge President effectively means no by-elections would be held until the country goes for harmonised elections next March. Justice Chiweshe heard the arguments on the merits of the case and ruled in favour of the Head of State and Government and Commander-in-Chief of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces.

"The period within which to comply with the order granted in case Number SC267/11 is hereby further extended to March 31 2013.

"There will be no order as to costs," ruled Justice Chiweshe.

The Judge President said he would give detailed reasons for the order in due course. President Mugabe wants harmonised elections held at the end of March, instead of having by-elections in three constituencies only. The by-elections were set to fill vacancies left by Abednico Bhebhe (Nkayi South), Norman Mpofu (Bulilima East) and Njabuliso Mguni (Lupane East) who were dismissed from their party in 2010.

The President cited lack of financial resources to conduct the by-election. Last year, the High Court in Bulawayo ordered the President to publish the by-election dates within 14 days. The President appealed to the Supreme Court, resulting in the Chief Justice Godfrey Chidyausiku upholding the High Court's decision. He gave the President up to August 31 this year to publish the by-election dates. Before August 31, the President successfully got an order for the extension of the deadline to October 1.

Last week, the President's lawyers filed a fresh application to extend the deadline to March 31. After the arguments, Adv Goba said President Mugabe was ready to comply with the order of the Supreme Court, but due to the economic challenges facing the country, he was seeking the extension.

"The President has respect for the courts. The fact that he sought postponement before the deadline shows an element of respect for the law," he said.

"My client accepts the substance of the Supreme Court order, but his predicament is in regards to time limits."

The three ex-legislators' lawyer, Mr Tawanda Zhuwarara, said the Government was pleading poverty when there was a court order. Government, Mr Zhuwarara said, was a creature of statute and it should comply with the law.

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