Court clears way for Zim poll
Harare – Zimbabwe’s High Court has cleared the way for a June 29 general election following a ruling on a long-running poll dispute.
Three former MPs had taken President Robert Mugabe to court for failing to call for by-elections in vacant constituencies they once represented.
The Supreme Court had ordered President Mugabe to set dates for the by-elections by March 31, 2013.
However, the President made an application in which he stated it would not make financial and logistical sense to hold three by-elections a few months before the term of Parliament expired.
President Mugabe, through his lawyers, contended that the best way forward was to hold a general election at the pending expiry of the life of Parliament.
Judge President George Chiweshe concurred with these submissions, saying he was convinced that the life of Parliament would end on June 29 and a general election would be held then.
And as the country cannot function without a Parliament, a general election would be held at that time.
This effectively puts paid to attempts by some political parties to have the life of Parliament extended to September 2013.
“…there is no doubt whatsoever that the life of the present Parliament shall end on June 29, 2013,” Justice Chiweshe ruled.
“On that date, Parliament shall stand dissolved by effluxion of time. It is, however, permissible to extend the life of Parliament beyond that date on grounds provided under Section 63(5) and (6) of the Constitution.
“These sections allow for the extension on if the country is at war or under a declared state of public emergency. No such situation presently obtains in the country. I have no reason to believe otherwise today or in the future.”
The court challenge came about when three former legislators belonging to an MDC formation then led by Professor Arthur Mutambara in 2008 after they were expelled from their party for switching their allegiance to Morgan Tsvangirai, who heads his own formation of the MDC.
According to Zimbabwe’s laws, MPs cannot switch parties and if they do so they are expelled from Parliament.
The ex-MPs approached the courts to force President Mugabe to call by-elections in their former constituencies.
Justice Chiweshe pointed out that apart from these three constituencies, 28 other Parliamentary seats were vacant, as were 164 council wards.
As such, it would only make sense to wait a few months for the general election instead of straining resources to hold these by-elections now.