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Intense litigation, negotiations and calls for peace precede the
much awaited referendum
Rights NGO Forum
In a week reminiscent
of the eve of the American elections when President Obama and Mitt
Romney criss-crossed swing states, Zimbabwean activists have been
in and out of the courts in a bid to create a level playing field
before the referendum
scheduled for tomorrow. The litigation is indicative that although
the referendum on its on might appear to be a non-event due to political
consensus, the way it is carried out is a crucial pre-cursor to
the watershed elections latter in the year. It is widely anticipated
that the outcome will determine not only when but also how President
Mugabe announces the election dates. As was the case in the 2000
referendum, the outcome of the vote might have a direct bearing
on the campaign strategies that the political parties will adopt.
In this issue, we report on major legal cases that have preceded
the constitutional referendum. We also publish Zimbabwe
Lawyers for Human Rights’ pre-referendum statement and
a statement calling
for peace by Heal Zimbabwe.
Among the major
cases that flooded the courts this week:
- 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
a referendum are not justiciable. The Supreme Court 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.
- In a separate
case, the High Court has set aside the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission
(ZEC)’s decision to refuse Zimbabwe
Human Rights Association (ZimRights) accreditation to observe
the March 15 Referendum. However, according to information from
Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition Press Release dated 14th March 2013,
the issue of Zimbabwe Election Commission’s (ZEC) refusal
to accredit local NGOs to observe the referendum appear to have
out of court when the political principals unanimously wrote to
ZEC in response to complaints by civil society organisations.
- In a related
but separate case, High Court Judge Justice Samuel Kudya has exonerated
ZimRights Director Okay Machisa who was charged
with forgery and fraud in January 2013 by setting aside his placement
on remand. Justice Kudya freed Machisa after declaring that the
placement on remand of the ZimRights director by Harare Magistrate
Tendai Mahwe on 15 and 16 January 2013 is invalid and that he
should be immediately removed from remand.
in the week, Africa's premier human rights organisation, the African
Commission on Human and People's Rights had passed a provisional
measure allowing exiled
Zimbabweans and those living abroad to vote in the Referendum
slated for March 16 2013 and the general elections thereafter.
The decision of the ACHPR followed a complaint filed on 27 December
2012 by Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights acting on behalf of
Gabriel Shumba, Kumbirai Tasuwa Muchemwa, Gilbert Chamunorwa,
Diana Zimbudzana and Solomon Sairos Chikohwero.
Commission's decision, although it comes too late for the referendum,
is significant as it appears to herald a new era for this body which
had historically been known for inordinate delays in making decisions.
This decision provides adequate raw material for further litigation
should the government not take immediate steps to recognise and
implement this decision.
In this week
that has been full of fireworks, Heal Zimbabwe has issued a statement
calling upon all peace loving Zimbabweans to observe peace as the
country go for this Saturday’s constitutional referendum.
The referendum due on the 16th of March comes at a delicate time
for Zimbabwe as the Government
of National Unity is nearing its extinction with elections expected
in few months to come, the statement says.
for Human Rights have also issued a comprehensive pre-referendum
statement which makes an interesting read.
Visit the Zimbabwe
Human Rights NGO Forum fact
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