21 November 2012

Zimbabwe: More Pressure On Mugabe

PRESIDENT Robert Mugabe is under renewed pressure to call for by-elections in three vacant constituencies in Matabeleland after their former legislators appealed against a High Court ruling in which Judge President George Chiweshe allowed the ZANU-PF leader to collapse the outstanding polls into harmonised elections expected next year.

The Supreme Court appeal by Abednico Bhebhe, Njabuliso Mguni and Norman Mpofu, the former legislators for Nkayi South, Lupane East and Bulilima East respectively, was lodged about two weeks ago.

President Mugabe was initially hauled to the High Court in 2010 by Bhebhe, Mguni and Mpofu to force him to call by-elections in their former respective constituencies after the trio's parliamentary membership was terminated following their expulsion from Welshman Ncube's Movement for Democratic Change.

The High Court had ruled that President Mugabe should call for by-elections in the three vacant constituencies by the end of August, 2012.

But last month Judge President Chiweshe allowed President Mugabe to collapse the outstanding by-elections into harmonised polls next year after the ZANU-PF leader lodged an application seeking an extension.

The former legislators, who have joined Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai's party, want Chiweshe's judgment of October 17, 2012 thrown out on grounds that it is fundamentally flawed.

They argue that Patrick Chinamasa, the Minister of Justice and Legal Affairs, had no executive authority and power to speak on behalf of President Mugabe who is the respondent in the matter.

In an affidavit lodged on behalf of President Mugabe, Chinamasa, said, among other things, the cost of holding by-elections this year were too high, considering that the country was due to hold a referendum on a new constitution and harmonised elections in March 2013.

But in their appeal, the former legislators said the court had erred and misdirected itself in finding that by virtue of his administration of the electoral laws of the country, Chinamasa has the authority and power to speak on behalf of President Mugabe, who is the respondent in the matter.

As part of their grounds of appeal, the legislators say the court further erred and misdirected itself when it found, "without evidence and without the Minister so averring" that he (Chinamasa) had the power and authority to speak for and on behalf of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission, an independent body.

Further reads part of the appeal: "The court a quo further erred and misdirected itself when it found that the extension sought was procedural as opposed to substantive when the effect of the extension was to completely do away with the ordered three by-elections.

"The court a quo further erred and misdirected itself when it found that the application was equivalent to an application for directions. The judge, a quo, in adopting this line of reasoning, clearly usurped Parliament's legislative function as enunciated by the requirements of the Electoral Act, Chapter 2:13. The court a quo further erred and misdirected itself when it shifted the onus of proving the alleged resource constraints from the respondent (President Mugabe) to the appellants."

They want Chiweshe's judgment dismissed with cost and that President Mugabe proceeds to gazette the holding of by-elections in Nkayi South, Lupane East and Bulilima East.

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