Madhuku loses Mugabe lawsuit

HARARE - High Court Judge George Chiweshe has dismissed National Constitutional Assembly (NCA) chairman Lovemore Madhuku’s referendum lawsuit against President Robert Mugabe, claiming the court has no jurisdiction to deal with the matter.

Madhuku is now weighing the option of an appeal, his lawyer Alec Muchadehama said.

Dismissing the case, Chiweshe said Mugabe, who is cited as the first respondent is “required or permitted to act on his own deliberate judgment.

“That being the case, I conclude that the conduct of the first respondent, in setting the date of the referendum and the time within which voters may cast their vote, is not subject to review by a court.”

The law professor and constitutional reforms campaigner had filed an urgent chamber application arguing Mugabe acted “unreasonably, irrationally and arbitrarily” when he declared March 16 as the date for the holding of a referendum.

The application cited Mugabe and Zimbabwe Election Commission acting chairperson Joice Kazembe as respondents.  

Madhuku argued that the date set for the holding of the referendum did not allow adequate time for the electorate to scrutinise the draft constitution.

He said no official document was distributed, while the available copies were not translated or simplified.

Madhuku highlighted that there was need for a translation of the draft and for braille copies for blind people.

However, Mugabe through his representative Prince Machaya rubbished Madhuku’s arguments.

Mugabe said he acted according to the law and his decision was not subject to review, claiming the court proceedings were not “competent”.

 “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 had told the court.

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

Muchadehama had however, argued Mugabe’s powers were not autonomous but were subject to review, especially if he acts in a way that affects the private rights of citizens. - Tendai Kamhungira

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