'Electoral Court can't hear MDC mayoral challenge'

HARARE - High Court Judge Lavender Makoni has said that the Electoral Court has no jurisdiction to hear the MDC’s challenge on the government’s position that mayors should only be selected from elected councillors.

In the urgent chamber application filed by MDC lawyers, Mwonzora and Associates, the party cites outgoing Local Government minister Ignatius Chombo and provincial administrators for Harare and Bulawayo as respondents.

“Justice Makoni says she has no jurisdiction to hear the case as an Electoral Court. We are filing the case before the High Court today (yesterday),” MDC spokesperson Douglas Mwonzora told the Daily News yesterday soon after the matter was heard in chambers.

The ministry of Local Government, Rural and Urban Development recently instructed provincial and district administrators to ensure that those elected as mayors and chairpersons of councils come from elected councillors.

MDC has contested the decision, forcing it to approach the court seeking an order to compel Chombo to allow non-councillors to be elected as mayors and chairpersons of local authorities.

After the directive, MDC described Chombo’s move as “destructive”.

In a court affidavit, MDC secretary for local government Blessing Chebundo said his party had already held its caucus to select mayoral candidates for all cities and that some of the chosen candidates were not elected councillors.

MDC selected among others  outgoing Justice and Legal Affairs deputy minister Obert Gutu, a lawyer, as nominee for the position of Harare mayor.

Chebundo said that mayors can be elected from persons who may not be elected councillors.

He told the court that Section 49 of the Urban Councils Act (UCA) that provides for qualification of mayors - does not disqualify anybody who is not an elected councillor to stand as a mayor.

Chebundo further argued that Section 103 of the UCA stipulates that mayors can be elected from councillors or other persons.

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