Mugabe begs for more time

HARARE - President Robert Mugabe yesterday moved to evade contempt of court charges by begging the High Court for an extension of time to allow him to call for a “mini-general election”.

The election could alter the political power equilibrium in Parliament between his Zanu PF party and its political foes.

The Supreme Court in July confirmed a High Court order that Mugabe should call for by-elections in three Matabeleland constituencies by the end of August.

This was after the octogenarian leader had appealed against High Court judge, Justice Nicholas Ndou’s decision in October 2011 ordering him to ensure by-elections for Nkayi South, Bulilima East and Lupane East were held, as they were constitutionally long overdue.

But yesterday, Mugabe pleaded with the High Court to be allowed more time to mobilise and ascertain the availability of financial resources to stage a mini-general election in all the vacant parliamentary and senatorial constituencies in the country including local authorities.

In an urgent application filed yesterday by the Civil Division of the Attorney General’s Office, Mugabe disclosed that he would not be able to comply with the Supreme Court’s order compelling him to gazette dates for the by-elections by the end of this month and would need a month’s extension to do so.

Justice and Legal Affairs minister Patrick Chinamasa, who deposed an affidavit on behalf of Mugabe, who is attending the Non-Aligned Movement Mugabe begs for more time summit in Teheran and will only be back in the country after August 31, said the Zanu PF leader is desirous to comply with the court’s order and conduct by-elections not only in the given three Matabeleland constituencies but to fill the vacant seats in other constituencies.

Mugabe argues that conducting 28 parliamentary and senatorial by-elections together with 164 local authority by-elections in the vacant constituencies is tantamount to holding a mini-general election, which would require the mobilisation of huge financial resources and wide consultations of which he has not been able to do in the given period due to “his busy schedule” and “circumstances beyond his control”.

Chinamasa said Mugabe will comply with the court order if it is extended by one month to October 1 as he would have carried out extensive consultations with other crucial stakeholders and mobilised enough resources to cater for the holding of the mini-general election.

“Applicant would however, endeavour to comply with the order if the period within which to comply is extended by one month,” reads part of Chinamasa’s affidavit.

Mugabe was initially hauled to the High Court by three former MDC legislators Abednico Bhebhe, Njabuliso Mguni and Norman Mpofu in 2010 after their parliamentary membership was terminated following their suspension and subsequent expulsion from the MDC party.

Bhebhe, Mguni and Mpofu were represented by Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights member, Ndabezinhle Mazibuko, of Calderwood Bryce Hendrie & Partners Legal Practitioners, while Mugabe was represented by Advocate Ray Goba, who was instructed by the Civil Division of the Attorney General’s Office.

The disclosures by Mugabe confirms the abstemious revelations by Finance minister Tendai Biti who has repeatedly cautioned those clamouring for the staging of general elections that the government’s purse was empty and could only fund a referendum  on a new draft governance charter.

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