Madhuku's referendum challenge heard

HARARE - National Constitutional Assembly (NCA) chairperson Lovemore Madhuku has accused President Robert Mugabe of acting “unreasonably, irrationally and arbitrarily” when he declared March 16 as the date for the holding of a referendum.

High Court Judge George Chiweshe yesterday heard Madhuku’s urgent chamber application seeking to defer the referendum saying there was not enough time for civic education.

Mugabe and Zimbabwe Electoral Commission acting chairperson, Joice Kazembe, are respondents in the suit.  

Madhuku said no official document was distributed, while the available copies were not translated, simplified or put in Braille.

Mugabe, who has retained advocate Prince Machaya, said he had acted according to the law and his decision was not subject to review, claiming the proceedings were not “competent”.

“The decision to call for a referendum is his (Mugabe’s) and his alone,” Machaya argued. “There are no preconditions stipulated to follow when the president calls for a referendum. The statutes have created an unfettered discretion in his favour.

“Section 3 of the Referendums Act gives the president powers to announce the date of the referendum. It does not limit him and it is not reviewable.”

Machaya further told the court that it was not possible for Madhuku to use the court in a bid to review the way Mugabe exercised his discretion.

Madhuku’s lawyer Alec Muchadehama said Mugabe’s powers were not autonomous and were subject to review, especially if he acts in a way that affects the private rights of citizens.

“He (Mugabe) did not take into account the private rights of citizens when he made the proclamation,” said Muchadehama.

The case proceeds tomorrow when Chiweshe makes a ruling on the preliminary issues raised. - Tendai Kamhungira

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