OPPOSITION leader Morgan TsvangiraiÆs quest to reverse President Robert Mugabee’s victory in the 2002 presidential poll suffered a major blow yesterday when Justice Ben Hlatshwayo ruled there
was nothing wrong with amendments to electoral regulations made by Mugabe on the eve of the election.
In a ruling on the preliminary points raised by Tsvangirai in his election petition filed in 2002, Justice Hlatshwayo upheld the amendments Mugabe effected to the electoral laws.
He dismissed with costs preliminary points raised by the petitioner in that none of them on their own nor all of them collectively sufficed to invalidate the election.
The judge did not give reasons for his ruling. These will be given later.
He dismissed with costs the order sought by Tsvangirai for the court to declare as invalid Section 158 of the Electoral Act which gives Mugabe the power to alter the Act by way of regulation through a statutory instrument.
The court also dismissed Tsvangirai’s challenge to Mugabe’s statutory instrument 41D of 2002. Mugabe invoked his presidential powers to change regulations stipulating the compsosition of the Electoral Supervisory Ccommission should comprise only members of the public service. Mugabe altered the regulation to say any employee of the state could be included in the ESC.
This enabled army and police officers to supervise the electoral process.
Under the regulations, Mugabe also restricted postal ballots to members of the army and the diplomatic service.
He also extended voter registration from January 27 to March 3 and invoked his presidential powers to enable people who registered after the official closing date to vote.
Tsvangirai wanted the court to invalidate all orders and declarations done in terms of the statutory instrument.
The judge also declared in the ruling that the fourth respondent in the case, the ESC, had been properly cited. The electoral body and Mugabe now remain as the respondents in the petition after registrar-general, Tobaiwa Mudede and Justice minister Patrick Chinamasa successfully challenged their inclusion in the case as respondents.
Justice Hlatshwayo still has to make a ruling on the main petition.
* Meanwhile, the hearing in the case involving 70 suspected mercenaries has been postponed to June 24.