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Mugabe faces another court hurdle

FORMER Nkayi South MP Abednico Bhebhe says his lawyers will file an opposing affidavit against an urgent High Court application by President Robert Mugabe seeking a 30-day extension of the deadline to proclaim by-election dates.

Report by Paidamoyo Muzulu

The Supreme Court last month gave Mugabe up to yesterday to set dates for by-elections in Nkayi South, Bulilima East and Lupane East after upholding a High Court ruling of October 2011 to hold the polls.

Bhebhe, Njabulo Mguni (Bulilima East) and Norman Mpofu (Lupane East) approached the courts with the intention of contesting their former parliamentary seats after expulsion from the MDC formation led by Industry and Commerce minister Welshman Ncube.

The High Court ruled in their favour but Mugabe appealed to the Supreme Court, which handed a rare judgment against him.
Bhebhe, the lead applicant in the case, said the decision to oppose Mugabe’s latest application was aimed at demonstrating the trio’s commitment to the rule of law.

“We are currently working on the opposing affidavits because we have to pursue this case through the legal route to its logical conclusion,” said Bhebhe.
“We cannot allow Mugabe to get away with it (the extension) when he knew the requirements of the law when by-elections arose.”

As the legal battle continues, the unity government seems determined to hold on to an understanding of February 2009 in which coalition partners agreed not to contest against each other in by-elections for 12 months. The truce was extended for the duration of the Global Political Agreement.

Mugabe’s High Court application came barely four hours after Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai told a press briefing that political principals in the coalition government had reached an understanding that by-elections would be held when resources became available.

This is despite the fact that the resources argument was thrown out by the Supreme Court.
Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights director Irene Petras said the legal merry-go-round was within the law and Mugabe was not in contempt or defiance of the court order.

“Mugabe wants to comply and not be seen as acting in contempt of court,” said Petras. “However, his application still needs to be heard by a judge. It depends also on whether the three MPs’ lawyers would oppose the application.”

Mugabe’s High Court application looks like a choice in the middle, in which he complies with the Supreme Court decision, but only if the decision’s effect can be delayed a little more while the political mindgames are being played out, legal and constitutional expert Alex Magaisa said.

“Another interpretation is that the extension is sought to prepare ground to declare general elections and do away with the constitution-making process,” said Magaisa.

“The apparent deadlock after Zanu PF suggested a new set of amendments that have the effect of re-writing the Copac draft constitution may be insurmountable. It may be that the proposed changes were designed to achieve that purpose — to kill the constitution-making process, revert to the current patched-up constitution and proceed to hold elections.”

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