Mugabe in a fix

HARARE - President Robert Mugabe has confirmed his dilemma over the holding of elections in the country after he begged for more time to fix dates for a “mini general election.”

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

Mugabe yesterday pleaded with the High Court to be granted an extension of time within which to comply with a court order compelling him to fix dates for a “mini-general election” and also indicated that a long-delayed referendum could be held in November.

The Zanu PF leader’s bid for an extension of time will be the second one inside one month after he first sought a postponement to comply with a court order at the end of August, which was granted by Judge President Justice George Chiweshe, who ordered him to set the by-election dates by October 1.

In a bid to evade contempt of court charges, Mugabe, through the Civil Division of the Attorney General’s Office filed an urgent chamber application in the High Court yesterday, where he pleaded to be allowed more time to mobilise financial resources to stage a mini-general election in all the vacant parliamentary and senatorial constituencies in the country including local authorities by March next year.

Mugabe blamed “circumstances beyond his control” for failing him to comply with the court order as mandated by Justice Chiweshe.

In an urgent chamber application filed yesterday, Mugabe, through an affidavit deposed by Justice and Legal Affairs minister Patrick Chinamasa, pleaded that holding by-elections in all vacant constituencies “would undoubtedly require enormous resources”.

The octogenarian leader argued that the government was currently seized with mobilising resources to conduct a referendum scheduled for the first week of November while by-elections for vacant seats would be held in December before harmonised general elections are conducted in March next year and hence this would make the six months from October “heavily congested with important national events.”

According to Mugabe, conducting all the three electoral processes would cost the government a total of      $267 573 199 broken down as $104 651 273 to cover the referendum, $47 547 036 for by-elections while $115 374 890 will be forked out for the harmonised elections.

“If we take into account the costs as at present the funds are not available to hold the by-elections,” Chinamasa stated in his founding affidavit.

Mugabe said extending the holding of by-elections to March 31 would enable the government to include the holding of by-elections in the harmonised elections to be held in the last week of March.

In July, the Supreme Court 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 former ruling party 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.

The elections dilemma was inflicted on Mugabe by three former MDC legislators Abednico Bhebhe, Njabuliso Mguni and Norman Mpofu who are represented by Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights member Beatrice Mtetwa.
 
The three former legislators hauled the Zanu PF leader to court in 2010 after their parliamentary membership was terminated following their suspension and subsequent expulsion from the MDC party.

Mugabe’s disclosures are a kick in the teeth of some obsessional members of his Zanu PF party who have been clamouring for the staging of general elections despite prudent counsel by Finance minister Tendai Biti that the government’s purse was empty owing to low revenue streams. - Kumbirai Mafunda

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