14 September 2013

Zimbabwe: MDC-T Drops Petitions Against ZEC

MDC-T has started withdrawing election petitions against the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission opting to sue only the winning candidates in their respective contested constituencies.This followed an application by ZEC excerpting to its inclusion as a respondent in the petitions filed by the opposition party's 39 National Assembly losing candidates at the Electoral Court.

Davies Shoko who lost the Mberengwa South seat to the newly-appointed Industry and Commerce Deputy Minister Cde Chiratidzo Iris Mabuwa, yesterday dropped ZEC from his petition.

ZEC contested its inclusion in all the 39 and Mr Shoko realised his error at law and became the first petitioner to drop it from the cases.

The commission argued in the application that the law does not provide for the citation of ZEC as a respondent in a election petition for the National Assembly seats.

Only the winning candidates should be sued and ZEC should simply comply with any order of the court to maintain its impartiality and independence.

More petitioners are expected to follow suit because ZEC's application applied to all the 39 petitioners. This means, the petitioners would now be facing the winning candidates only in the court challenges.

In a notice of withdrawal filed by Mr Shoko at the Electoral Court yesterday morning, he offered to pay for legal costs incurred by ZEC in defending the petition.

"Take notice that the petitioner hereby withdraws the electoral petition in respect of the second respondent only and tenders second respondent wasted costs on a party and party scale," reads the notice.

Gutu and Chikowero law firm were representing Mr Shoko in the case. MDC-T initially filed petitions in respect of 95 National Assembly seats but the party failed to raise the US$950 000 security for costs fees required by the Electoral Court.

Cracks widened in MDC-T as it emerged that the party paid security for costs in respect of only 39 heavy weights while the other 56 petitions for the little-known and less powerful petitioners were abandoned.

MDC-T secretary general Mr Tendai Biti wrote to the registrar of the Electoral Court informing him of the party's decision to pay US$390 000 for only 39 candidates.

The law requires each petitioner to pay US$10 000 to the court within seven days of filing the petition. Mr Biti tendered proof of payment to the court in respect of the 39 petitions a few hours before the lapse of the seven-day period.

By operation of law, the other 56 cases automatically became invalid for failure to meet the requirements. Among the lucky petitioners were Mr Lovemore Moyo, Mr Ian Makone, Mr Eric Knight, Mr Piniel Denga, Mr Blessing Chebundo, Mr Pishai Muchauraya, Ms Tracey Mutinhiri and Mr Takanayi Mureyi.

The rest of the abandoned petitions were for the little-known petitioners. The criteria used in the selection of the 39 petitioners was not clearly explained, a development that has widened the rift among the party members who were not happy with the conduct of the leadership.

Corruption and nepotism are some of the issues being raised by some losing candidates whose petitions were not considered in the payment of the security for costs.

Others indicated that MDC-T, that reportedly bought an up market mansion for its leader Mr Morgan Tsvangirai, decided to choose the cases that they felt belonged to the bigwigs, leaving out what they considered weak cases.

MDC-T spokesperson Mr Douglas Mwonzora said the decision to drop other MPs was made due to the limited funds available and that there was no particular criteria used.

"We have only paid what we could afford," he said.

"It does not mean that those petitions that were not paid for were weak cases in any way, but people should appreciate that the fees required were too much and that we could not afford to pay for everyone."

Asked on the criteria used in the selection of the 39 petitioners, Mr Mwonzora said: "It was simply on the basis of first come first serve. There was no much of criteria used."

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