Lifeline for Mugabe

HARARE - Jugde president George Chiweshe yesterday threw President Robert Mugabe a lifeline when he granted a consent order giving the Zanu PF leader a month in which he is to call for a mini general election.

Mugabe’s lawyer Advocate Ray Goba instructed by the Civil Division of the Attorney General’s Office said they had met with Beatrice Mtetwa who was instructed by the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) and they agreed to extend the poll deadline as requested by the President.

The lawyers met at the Attorney General’s Office for less than 30 minutes and agreed among themselves by consent leaving Chiweshe to only sign the consent order.

According to Goba, the urgent court application did not spill into High Court chambers as Chiweshe deemed it unnecessary.

“It was a very simple consent order. It was agreed between the parties that the deadline is extended up to October 1 and that there would be no contest.

“The other side said they would not contest the President’s application. So from today to October 1, we will see what will happen. This was by consent,” said Goba.

Mugabe was under pressure after a full Supreme Court bench in July upheld a High Court judgment ordering him to ensure by-elections for Nkayi South, Bulilima East and Lupane East were held, as they were constitutionally long overdue by August 30.

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 Welshman Ncube’s MDC party.

But on Tuesday this week, 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.

Goba said the reasons why parties agreed to extend the poll deadline were based on Mugabe’s submissions to the High Court pleading for an extension.

In the application filed 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 by-elections and would need a month’s extension.

Justice minister Patrick Chinamasa, who deposed an affidavit on behalf of Mugabe, said the 88-year-old strongman is desirous to comply with the court’s order and conduct by-elections not only in the given three Matabeleland constituencies but all the vacant seats in other constituencies spread across the country.

Goba, who read Chinamasa’s submissions, said Mugabe argues that conducting “28 parliamentary and senatorial by-elections together with 164 local council wards by-elections” in the vacant constituencies is tantamount to holding a mini general election.

“This would require the mobilisation of huge financial resources and wide consultations of which he has not been able to do so in the given period due to “his busy schedule” and “circumstances beyond his control”.

Mugabe, according to his lawyers, is keen to comply with the court order but only after October 1 as that would allow him to carry extensive consultations with other crucial stakeholders and mobilise enough resources to cater for the holding of the mini poll.

Last week, Finance minister Tendai Biti revealed that government had not budgeted for the by-elections but would gauge support among political parties ahead of the watershed election pencilled for next year.

Biti also ruled out the possibility of polls this year citing cash constraints.

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