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Deficiencies of Zimbabwe's electoral laws
Media Monitoring Project Zimbabwe (MMPZ)
Weekly Media Update 2006-30
Monday July 24th 2006 - Sunday July 30th 2006

THE deficiencies of Zimbabwe’s electoral laws hastily cobbled together in time for last year’s parliamentary election were brought to light this week by only one privately owned weekly newspaper. The government controlled media all ignored a landmark Supreme Court ruling that found that a provision in the Electoral Act dealing with the appointment of judges to the Electoral Court was unconstitutional and that as a result, the court had been improperly constituted.

It was left to The Financial Gazette (27/7) to report that the Supreme Court found Section 162 (1) of the Electoral Act, which empowers the Chief Justice to appoint judges to preside over election petitions, contravened Section 92(1) of the Constitution which limits such powers to the President in consultation with the Judicial Services Commission.

To its credit, the paper also highlighted the implications of this ruling on the election petitions filed by the opposition MDC after the March poll. It noted that the ruling had rendered "all the decisions made by the Electoral Court of 2005… null and void".

However, one MDC lawyer, Chris Mhike, pointed out that although all the Electoral Court’s judgments had "become meaningless", there was still a legal battle the petitioners had to fight as the timeframe within which their cases could be heard had lapsed. Said Mhike: "The difficulty for the petitioners is that the six-month period, in which election petitions had to be determined, has now lapsed while government refused to correct the law and electoral judges refused to refer the question of their appointment."

The Zimbabwe Independent (28/7) story Zanu PF fails to cough up for poll petitions only gave a cursory reference to the Supreme Court judgment saying: "This means the cases (MDC petitions) can be brought back to court." There was no independent legal comment on the observation.

MMPZ condemns the censoring of this important ruling by the government media, which has a duty to fully inform their audiences of important developments of public interest. Efforts by these media to suffocate such news vindicate civil society’s view that the nation urgently needs more newspapers and radio and television stations to ensure that the public’s right to know is guaranteed.

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