Zimbabwe: Constitutional Court Upholds Mugabe’s July 31st Poll Date

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zimbabweZimbabwe will hold elections in just over three weeks’ time after the Constitutional Court dismissed an application by Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, MDC leader Welshman Ncube and others for an extension. There was also an application by Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa, who told the court that he only filed the government application for an extension after being forced by the regional body – SADC.

The court said the declaration to hold elections on July 31st had already been proclaimed by President Robert Mugabe. Mugabe’s lawyer, Terrence Hussein, said there were lengthy arguments during the hearing and all nine judges considered the matter and made a unanimous decision which “reaffirmed that the constitution of Zimbabwe prevails.” MDC-T spokesman Douglas Mwonzora said the ruling is not surprising and accused the judges of showing bias in favor of Mugabe.

“This was a predictable ruling by the constitutional court because it was clear it was going to make a political decision rather than a legal decision.

“This application was destined to fail anyway because it was poorly written by the Minister of Justice who wanted this particular outcome.” Mwonzora said the reason why the MDC-T wanted a postponement was so that people would be given ample time to register and inspect the voters’ roll. All other requests for the election date to be removed were also turned down. Mwonzora said the court did not take seriously the applications by ‘alien’ Mariah Phiri and human rights activist Nixon Nyikadzino, who also appealed for a delay saying their rights would be violated if elections are held this month.”All that has been sacrificed because the Constitutional Court did not want to displease the emperor,” Mwonzora added.

MDC spokesman Nhlanhla Dube said ZANU PF did everything possible to make sure that the SADC resolution was not implemented but he said they had to challenge the regime in the courts to put it on record that what the former ruling party had done was “patently wrong and patently unfair.” Dube said they are ready for elections even though “ZANU PF has forced our hands.” He added: “Zimbabweans will select those that stand for truth and values and they will vote ZANU PF out of power.”

It was a busy day at the Constitutional Court as the bench heard various arguments on the issue of whether or not the July 31st election date should be extended. Mugabe told the court that he was following the original court order to hold elections by that date. He argued the rights of the people who had filed their nomination papers last Friday, in the belief that elections would be held at the end of this month, would also be violated. The President said the election process was already underway and both Tsvangirai and Ncube had filed papers in the nomination court to contest in the presidential elections to be held on the 31st.

But the MDCs told the court Mugabe had illegally proclaimed the poll dates without consulting them as partners in the coalition government. They also accused Mugabe of abusing his presidential powers to pass amendments to the Electoral Act, without going through parliament.

Now that the court has brought finality to the issue of the election dates, questions are being asked as to where the cash-strapped government is going to find the money to run credible elections in just over three weeks. Special voting for the security forces is expected to start in about seven days. The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission has called upon the government to release $132million to enable the electoral body to prepare for the general polls. Finance Minister Tendai Biti has repeatedly said there is no money in the government coffers.

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