Election date case open floodgates at Constitutional Court

HARARE - The recent court ruling ordering President Robert Mugabe to hold elections by July 31 has opened a plethora of constitutional cases as several other people are making various requests which has forced the Constitutional Court to sit on a continuous roll.

Over the last years very few “rights” cases were referred to the Supreme Court, which would sit as a Constitutional Court for determination, but recently the court has been kept busy.

Brainz.org describes Constitutional rights as privileges and freedoms that are basic and intrinsic to individuals.

“These rights cannot be denied and they establish a person’s citizenship within a nation or state,” it explains.

Law expert Chris Mhike told the Daily News on Sunday that a Constitutional Court in Zimbabwe is a new creature recently composed under the country’s new constitution dispensation.

“In the past, we have seen a great deal of activity in election related litigation at the High Court, not at the Supreme Court.

“However, because of the nature of our new constitution which widens the scope of fundamental rights, it appears most litigants, if not all, have identified Constitutional Court of Zimbabwe as the most appropriate forum for the redress of their misgivings about the forthcoming general elections,” Mhike said.

Few cases were dealt with in the Supreme Court sitting as a Constitutional Court, and most of them were referred from the magistrates’ court. Most of such applications were by suspects contesting the State’s failure to try them within a reasonable time.

Since Centre for Elections and Democracy in Southern Africa (CEDSA) director, and founding trustee Jealousy Mawarire won a Supreme Court case ordering President Robert Mugabe to call for elections by end-July, election related constitutional applications have been filed in numbers.

This case opened a floodgate of other cases, contesting the holding of elections on July 31.

Constitutional issues raised on urgent basis, range from rights to vote in the forthcoming elections to the right to funding as political parties.

All these cases are still pending and Chief Justice Godfrey Chidyausiku has decided to have the matters heard on a continuous roll this week, to ensure that they are immediately cleared.

Besides this application, a civil activist Nixon Nyikadzino approached the Constitutional Court, seeking an extension of the poll date, in order for the country’s political parties to implement reforms that would ensure free and fair elections.

Soon after the election date was declared, a Bulawayo woman Maria Phiri petitioned the Constitutional Court pushing for “aliens” to vote in the elections.

In the application, Phiri is also seeking an extension for the election date in order for her to be able to vote in the forthcoming elections, claiming it is her right to do so.

Phiri — who until the new Constitution was regarded an alien and unable to vote — told the court that former aliens have to acquire identity cards first and therefore cannot be able to immediately benefit in the 30-day voter registration exercise.

She argues that polls could only be held after August 12.

She argues that proclamation of the nomination date and polling date must allow for the 30-day intensive voter registration period, which ends on July 10.

Another South African-based man Tavengwa Bukaibenyu is lobbying for several exiled Zimbabweans to vote in the forthcoming elections using the postal ballot system.

“It is undoubtedly within the ability of the State to organise a postal ballot for all registered voters who for one reason or another cannot attend or do not wish to attend a polling station on the day set aside for voting,” reads Bukaibenyu’s court papers.

The case is still pending.

Zimbabwe Development Party, a little known political party led by Kisinoti Mukwazhe has also approached the Supreme Court demanding funding for elections.

The party claims it has a right to be funded by government to ensure multi-party democracy.

These cases are part of a whole set of applications including another request made by South Africa-based businessman Mutumwa Mawere.

Mawere took his case to the Constitutional Court claiming registrar of voters Tobaiwa Mudede is denying him an opportunity to get a Zimbabwean citizenship.

Mudede reportedly ignored Mawere’s request for a Zimbabwean identification card, though according to the new Constitution which came into force on May 22, the self-exiled tycoon is allowed to enjoy dual citizenship as he was born in Bindura, Zimbabwe. - Tendai Kamhungira

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