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  • Activists turn heat on ZEC and Mugabe over referendum as Supreme Court dismisses NCA referendum application
    Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR)

    March 13, 2013

    Zimbabwe’s influential human rights, labour and social justice activists on Wednesday 13 March 2013 turned the heat on the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) and President Robert Mugabe after flooding the Supreme Court with a deluge of lawsuits

    In a week of high legal drama characterised by a litany of litigation, the activists who included National Constitutional Assembly (NCA) chairperson, Professor Lovemore Madhuku, International Socialist Organisation (ISO) leader, Munyaradzi Gwisai, Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe secretary-general Raymond Majongwe and Hilary Yuba petitioned the Supreme Court seeking various orders that could have a bearing on the holding of the referendum scheduled for Saturday 16 March 2013.

    The NCA on Wednesday 13 March 2013 filed an urgent application in the Supreme Court challenging the appointment of ZEC acting chairperson Joyce Kazembe on the basis that she cannot occupy such a position and preside over the affairs of the elections management body because she is not a Judge, a former Judge of the Supreme Court or the High Court or a person qualified for appointment as such as a Judge.

    The NCA said Kazembe’s appointment to act as ZEC’s acting chairperson was in breach of Section 100 B (2) of the Constitution, which stipulates that the chairperson of ZEC must be a Judge or a former Judge of the Supreme Court or the High Court or a person qualified for appointment as such as a Judge.

    The constitutional reform body said ZEC is currently improperly constituted and cannot competently run any election or referendum until the appointment of a substantive chairperson or a suitably qualified acting chairperson.

    In their Constitutional application filed on Wednesday 13 March 2013, Majongwe, Gwisai, Yuba and ISO, who identified themselves as proponents of the “VOTE NO” campaign argued that they had been denied their right to a free and fair referendum because of the limited time to conduct their campaigns to conscientise their members and hence need an extension of time before the draft governance charter can be put to a vote.

    The activists want President Mugabe to issue a new proclamation of another referendum date. They also want the State-run Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation (ZBC) to be interdicted from disseminating, promoting, flighting or carrying any material whether audio or visual solicited by the three Constitution Select Committee (COPAC) co-chairpersons namely Munyaradzi Paul Mangwana, Douglas Mwonzora and Edward Mkhosi encouraging citizens to vote “Yes” in the upcoming referendum.

    Majongwe, ISO, Gwisai and Yuba also want the Supreme Court to order ZBC to afford free and equitable coverage for them and those legitimately permitted to lobby for the adoption of the draft COPAC Constitution.

    Meanwhile, the Supreme Court on Wednesday 13 March 2013 set aside High Court Judge President George Chiweshe’s ruling in which he had stated that the powers conferred upon President Mugabe are not justiciable. Chief Justice Godfrey Chidyausiku sitting with Deputy Chief Justice Luke Malaba and Justices of Appeal Vernanda Ziyambi, Paddington Garwe and Mary-Anne Gowora ruled that Justice Chiweshe should have assumed jurisdiction to enquire into the issue of the irrationality and gross unreasonableness of President Mugabe’s proclamation of 16 March 2013 as the referendum date. However, the Supreme Court also dismissed the NCA’s appeal to delay the weekend referendum on the merits.

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