Mugabe/Tsvangirai court battle set

Dumisani Muleya/Blessing Zulu

THE High Court has finally set down the hearing date of Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) leader Morgan Tsvangirai’s electoral challenge against President Robert Mugabe’s dis

puted election victory in March last year after nearly 16 months of waiting.


MDC Secretary for Legal Affairs David Coltart yesterday said the start of the petition hearing has been slated for November 3.


“The Registrar of the High Court has told us that Judge President (Paddington) Garwe has advised that this is the earliest that he can make a judge available,” Coltart said.


“We are disappointed at this further delay of this very important matter but we have reluctantly accepted the position because at least now a fixed date for the hearing has been set. We trust that the court and the respondents will not seek to delay the hearing of the matter any further.”


The initial hearing will be for a consecutive period of five days and will be devoted to what the MDC contends are “serious legal irregularities perpetrated by the authorities before and during the presidential election”.


This will be followed by proceedings on factual issues involved, including acts of violence and fraudulent conduct of the poll.


“Prior to the hearing all parties have to comply with all the court requirements so that the trial can go ahead on the date set,” Coltart said.


“For instance, it is an essential and very important element of all court trials that the parties involved must make full disclosure of the documents which are in their possession relating to the issues involved.”


So far Registrar-General Tobaiwa Mudede, Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa and the Electoral Supervisory Commission (ESC) have refused to make full disclosure.


Mudede has even failed to bring the electoral materials to Harare as stipulated under the Electoral Act. This is despite the fact that court orders have been issued to Mudede and Chinamasa for them to comply with the law.


“This can only raise suspicion in the minds of all reasonable people that they have things to hide,” Coltart said.


Following the defiance of court orders by Mudede and Chinamasa, MDC lawyers filed an application to have the two struck out as respondents leaving Mugabe as the only defendant. The application was argued before Justice Susan Mavangira on April 14, but judgement has not yet been delivered.


A court order was also issued against the ESC, which monitored the poll, to force it to make proper and full disclosure of the documents in its possession but the electoral agency defied it.


MDC attorneys reacted by filing another application to have the ESC’s defence struck out as well. However, on the day of the hearing, the ESC made an application querying the contents of a previous order issued against it in March. The case was argued before Justice Ann-Marie Gowora on June 6. A ruling has also not yet been handed down.


In the meantime, the application to strike out the defence of the ESC, which had been set down before Justice Rita Makarau, has been held in abeyance.


Mudede and Chinamasa recently further fuelled confusion by filing a court application to be removed as respondents. Justice Antonia Guvava will hear the case on July 29.