Constitutional Court not protecting voters' rights — Ncube

BULAWAYO - Welshman Ncube, president of the smaller MDC, has said the newly formed Constitutional Court has already failed to protect the new Constitution as it rushed to set the election date without considering many important factors.

The Constitutional Court led by Chief Justice Godfrey Chidyausiku on Friday ruled that elections should be held before July 31 and ordered President Robert Mugabe to proclaim poll dates as soon as possible.

Seven Constitutional Court judges ruled in favour of the July 31 poll date while deputy Chief Justice Luke Malaba and Bharat Patel handed a dissenting judgment arguing that the Constitution allows for a four-month period from the date of the dissolution of Parliament.

However, speaking at a function in Bulawayo yesterday, the constitutional law expert said the Constitutional Court should have at least taken into account that Zimbabweans must be given enough time to register as voters before setting the elections date.

“Some of us are very worried that the Constitutional Court, being the court which has been entrusted with the obligations to defend and protect our rights in the new Constitution, did not feel it necessary to protect and defend the rights of Zimbabweans who were supposed to be given a 30-day window to register by the new Constitution as voters,” Ncube said.

“They completely ignored that in their ruling, If you are to have an election on July 31, you must proclaim it no later than June 14, which means Zimbabweans are not given time to register, especially aliens.

“The attitude which has been displayed by the Constitutional Court towards the new Constitution is very worrying and we doubt whether this Constitution will be protected by a Constitutional Court which has decided in this manner.”

The Constitutional Court handed down the controversial judgment after Jealousy Mawarire, director of Centre for Election Democracy in Southern Africa filed a court challenge arguing that the delay in announcing poll dates violated his constitutional rights as a voter.

On Friday Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai slammed ruling by the Constitutional Court saying the court has overstepped its mandate.

Tsvangirai said the Constitutional Court has no power whatsoever to set an election date.

He said in the true spirit of separation of powers, an election date remains a political process in which the Executive has a role to play.

Meanwhile, Ncube demanded media reforms in the electronic media before the watershed elections.

“It is a matter of great regret that in the last few weeks of the inclusive government, we have achieved so little in the area of media reforms,” Ncube said.

“When the inclusive government was instituted in 2009, those of us who negotiated had extremely high hopes, but we have not achieved a basic minimum agreed.”

Ncube said Zimbabweans must be able to express themselves freely as the nation gears towards the upcoming elections.

“We should never be afraid of the voice of the people. I hope as we approach the elections, we will begin to improve on media,” Ncube said.

“Freedom of speech is one of the most important freedoms that people can have in any given country. You can’t say you are free as a country without the freedom to express yourselves.”

Due to lack of diversity of media in the country, most Zimbabweans have resorted to external radio stations such as Studio 7 and Voice of the People.

Ncube said even though print media has been liberalised through the licensing of private players, similar developments must be affected in electronic media.

“It is a matter of great regret that we have not made similar strides in the electronic media and these are the challenges we face going forward,” Ncube said.

He said Zimbabweans have the right to own and run media outlets, adding that the Zimbabwe Media Commission should let the market forces determine media houses who survive in the industry.

“Let those who survive and let those who fail, fail because the market has judged you unsuitable and not a government official who says that you can’t publish,” said the MDC leader. - Pindai Dube and Nyasha Chingono

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