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  • Zimbabwe's Elections 2013 - Index of Articles

  • Elections by July 31
    Fidelis Munyoro and Sifelani Tsiko, The Herald (Zimbabwe)
    June 01, 2013

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    The Constitutional Court of Zimbabwe has ordered President Mugabe to proclaim election dates and have the crunch harmonised elections held by July 31 this year. Chief Justice Godfrey Chidyausiku made the ruling yesterday in a case in which a Harare man, Mr Jealousy Mawarire, was seeking an order compelling the President to proclaim the election date.

    “Accordingly, the first respondent be and is hereby ordered and directed to proclaim as soon as possible a date (s) for the holding of Presidential elections, general election and for elections for members of governing bodies of local authorities in terms of section 58 (1) of the Constitution of Zimbabwe which elections should take place by no later than 31 July 2013,” he said.

    The nine-member panel of judges comprised Chief Justice Chidyausiku, Deputy Chief Justice Luke Malaba and Justices Vernanda Ziyambi, Paddington Garwe, Ann-Mary Gowora, Ben Hlatshwayo, George Chiweshe, Antonia Guvava and Bharat Patel.

    Seven judges concurred with the ruling, but there were two dissenting opinions by Justice Malaba and Justice Patel.

    According to the ruling, Chief Justice Chidyausiku said the President’s failure to fix the date for the elections timeously makes it legally impossible for the country to hold polls on June 29, 2013 when the Seventh Parliament is dissolved.

    “It is declared that the failure by the first respondent (President Mugabe) to fix and proclaim the dates for the harmonised general election to take place by 29 June 2013 is a violation of the first respondent’s constitutional duty towards the applicant to exercise his functions as a public officer in accordance with the law and to observe and uphold the rule of law in terms of section 18 (1a) of the Constitution,” the Chief Justice said.

    “It is further declared that by failing to act as stated . . . the first respondent has violated the applicant’s rights as a voter and his legitimate expectation of protection of the law entrenched in section 18 (1) of the Constitution.”

    Mr Mawarire’s constitutional case sought to compel the President to fix the election dates and for the court to clear confusion over the holding of the harmonised elections.

    The Constitutional Court ruling puts to rest confusion and wrangling among major political parties over the interpretation of the law governing the holding of elections after the dissolution of Parliament next month.

    President Mugabe wanted the elections held by June 29, while Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai had proposed September 16 as the ideal date on which Zimbabwe could hold harmonised elections.

    In determining the case, the Constitutional Court examined various issues pertaining to elections and the Constitution, debating rigorously whether the delay in announcing the date of polls infringed voters’ rights, legitimate expectations of the public as well as the threat of a perceived constitutional crisis.

    In addition, there were competing interpretations of constitutional provisions pertaining to elections, dissolution of Parliament, proclamation of dates and timing of elections, the tenure of office of the Executive, voter rights among other key issues.

    Although the judges gave diverse and differing opinions, seven of them unanimously agreed that elections be held by July 31, 2013 while others felt that President Mugabe had four months to call for elections after June 29 and that there was no breach and no reason for Mr Mawarire to bring such an application before the court.

    Last week, Sadc said it was awaiting the announcement of the date for harmonised elections and expressed satisfaction with the progress made so far in overcoming hurdles on electoral issues.

    ‘‘Our position as Sadc is that the Constitution was concluded and the next step is the election, whether it’s held within one month, two months, three months or the next six months, it is up to those with the powers to decide,” said Dr Tomaz Salamao, the bloc’s executive secretary after Sadc member states held a meeting on the sidelines of the African Union General Assembly session last week.

    “We are waiting to hear the ruling of the Supreme Court, and as Sadc we will be there to support . . . We are basically waiting for the announcement of the day of the election so that we move this process forward.”

    Sadc leaders are set to meet this month in Maputo, Mozambique, for a special summit on Zimbabwe convened to co-ordinate efforts towards raising funds for the elections.

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