When are the elections Mr President?

HARARE - President Robert Mugabe is today expected through the courts, to announce a firm date when he will dissolve Parliament, a move that might determine the timing of a fresh general election.

Zimbabweans are anxious about the poll dates, which have been a subject of fresh bickering between Mugabe and coalition partners Prime minister Morgan Tsvangirai and Industry minister Welshman Ncube.

The 89-year-old has been forced into giving a definite date when the current Parliament expires because of a long drawn court case brought by three former MPs demanding elections.

Mugabe’s lawyer Prince Machaya yesterday said he will address the court on the dates today.

“We are going to address him (Chiweshe) on the issue of whether the life of Parliament expires on 29 June 2013, or 29 October 2013,” Machaya said.

“And the judge president did indicate that the importance of those dates is that if the life of Parliament expires on the 29th of June then the need to hold by-elections will no longer exist but if the dissolution of Parliament occurs on the 29th of October then it will be necessary to hold by-elections in those constituencies,” said Machaya, who is the deputy attorney-general.

Mugabe has declared that he will dissolve Parliament and call for a snap poll on or before June 29, earning sharp rebuke from Tsvangirai, who says he should be consulted on any election timing.

In the on-going court case, Mugabe is fighting a court ruling granted in 2011 which ordered him to set by-election dates for Nkayi South, Bulilima East and Lupane East constituencies following an application by former MPs Abednico Bhebhe, Njabuliso Mguni and Norman Mpofu.

Mugabe is opposing the holding of the by-elections now as demanded by the former MPs, arguing it will be a waste of resources since he intends to call a general election in three months’ time.

The three are all former legislators in the smaller ruling MDC.

As the case rages on, High Court Judge President George Chiweshe yesterday demanded to know when Parliament will be dissolved for him to make an informed decision on the three former MPs’ demand for immediate polls.

Chiweshe questioned when the term of Parliament will expire, saying this was necessary for the determination of the case.

“If Parliament is dissolved in June, we cannot hold a by-election but if it expires in October then we can hold a by-election,” said Chiweshe.

The three MPs’ legal counsel Thabani Mpofu questioned why Mugabe went for two years without implementing the court order.

Chiweshe said Mugabe successfully applied for an extension of the dates.

However, Tsvangirai said the June poll date was not feasible.

He filed an application in the High Court last Thursday requesting to be included in the matter as a respondent.

He argued Mugabe could not tell the court about election timing plans without him giving an input.

But Chiweshe yesterday queried the merits of Tsvangirai’s application.

“If you are talking about by-elections, my understanding is that the PM has nothing to do with that, but if we are dealing with general elections, then the PM can be involved,” said the judge.

Tsvangirai’s lawyer Chris Mhike said he would get instructions from the PM on whether to proceed with the case given the new circumstances.

“Now there are specific mentions, specific details, pertaining to the general election in the main application and there was an indication by the Attorney General’s office representing the president that they wish to abandon all references to the general election or the harmonised elections and in light of that indication, the judge president was interested to know whether the prime minister will still be interested to be joined to the proceedings when there is no mention of harmonised election in the amended papers,” Mhike said.

“We are waiting therefore to see the confirmation of the abandonment by the AG’s office and to take further instructions from the prime minister as to what his attitude will be if this matter is now just about by-elections.”

The hearing continues today. - Tendai Kamhungira

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