THIRTY-NINE out of 95 losing MDC-T National Assembly candidates paid the required US$10 000 security for costs for each of their election petitions after the deadline lapsed yesterday evening.Although there is room for other candidates who could have paid at the bank, but were yet to furnish the Electoral Court registry with confirmation of payment, 54 petitions appeared abandoned.
Legal experts said failure by petitioners to pay the required sum within the seven-day period which expired yesterday would result in the automatic lapse of the contestations.
"In the event of people failing to pay the required US$10 000 within the permissible period, the petition automatically lapses. It falls away and ceases to be a matter before the Electoral Court," said an expert.
However, MDC-T spokesperson Mr Douglas Mwonzora said the party was pursuing all petitions, adding that they would engage the court for negotiations.
"It is not an offence to fail to pay the fees before the deadline. We will still engage the court for some negotiations because the figure that it requires for a single petition is too high. It is ridiculous and prohibitive."
Petitions were filed on the eve of the expiry of the 14-day period in which challenges should be filed at the Electoral Court and the 39 payments were made yesterday, which was the last day.
In Harare, 89 petitions were filed last Friday, while six were filed in Bulawayo, leaving the total number of petitions at 95.
Section 168 of the Electoral Act makes it mandatory for petitioners to tender security of costs as stipulated by the Electoral Court.
"Not later than seven days after the presentation of the election petition, security of an amount fixed by the registrar of the Electoral Court, being not less than the amount prescribed by the Commission after consultation with the Chief Justice, for the payment of all costs, charges and expenses that may become payable by the petitioner - (a) to pay any person summoned as a witness on his behalf or her behalf and (b) to the respondent shall be given by or on behalf of the petitioner," reads the Act.
On Wednesday, Mr Mwonzora said MDC-T was considering withdrawing the 95 petitions filed by its losing candidates at the Electoral Court because the party and the candidates were failing to raise the US$10 000 security of cost fees required for each petition.
MDC-T spokesperson Mr Douglas Mwonzora said they considered the money exorbitant and were considering abandoning the cases.
He said the situation was worsened by the recent Constitutional Court ruling that declared the contested election as free, fair, credible and expressing the will of Zimbabweans.