THE Constitutional Court (ConCourt) ruling yesterday upholding the July 31 election date was met with jubilation by the Zanu PF’s highest decision-making body outside an elective congress, the central committee whose members ululated and sang a revolutionary song doing the famous zora butter dance.
Justice minister Patrick Chinamasa made the announcement at the Central Committee meeting last night. Closing the meeting, President Robert Mugabe said the judgement “should give us a real impetus, a real push because elsewhere, there is dismay, down heartedness and disappointment” over the ruling.
Mugabe said the party should take advantage of the “sorrow” and “disappointment” to consolidate its support base to win the make-or-break elections.
The Constitutional Court (Concourt) yesterday unanimously dismissed the consolidated application by Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and Industry and Commerce minister Welshman Ncube to extend the poll date from July 31 to either August 25 or August 12, 2013.
The MDC formations’ leaders filed the applications last month seeking an extension of the poll date in line with the Maputo Sadc summit to get more time for implementation of agreed outstanding reforms.
Delivering the Concourt’s ruling after a full day sitting, Chief Justice Godfrey Chidyausiku said the general elections should proceed on July 31 as proclaimed by President Robert Mugabe in a June 12 government gazette.
“The court unanimously concludes that the applications should and are hereby dismissed with no order to costs. The elections should proceed on July 31 in terms of the proclamation by the president of Zimbabwe in compliance with the Concourt order earlier issued,” Chidyausiku said.
This was reminiscent on the 2002 elections. A day before the 2002 presidential election, Chidyausiku dismissed Tsvangirai’s application challenging unilateral amendments to the Electoral Act by Mugabe by decree.
Advocates Lewis Uriri and Thabani Mpofu, who represented Tsvangirai and Ncube respectively yesterday, failed to convince the Concourt why their clients had not approached the court with an application to change the poll date soon after its May 29 ruling.
Deputy Chief Justice Luke Malaba said: “It seems there was a deliberate choice by the applicants on how they wanted to have the poll date changed by delaying approaching the court after the judgement. Whether wrong or not why did they not seek a variation of the date before the process of a proclamation?”
Malaba said everyone should have known that if the president had to work within the timeline of the judgment, proclamation was to be done before June 15.
Mugabe’s lawyer Terrence Hussein said the ruling was welcome, especially considering that it was a unanimous. “We think the court came to a correct decision and we can now move on as a country,” Hussein said.
However, the MDC-T dismissed the Concourt’s decision as pre-determined and politically motivated.
MDC-T spokesman Douglas Mwonzora said the court had not applied its mind to critical issues such as the mandatory 30-day voter registration chaos, skewed access to the media and security sector reforms.
“What the Concourt has done is to subordinate clear constitutional provisions to a date decided by an individual (Mugabe). It’s a tragic ruling,” said Mwonzora. MDC spokesperson Nhlanhla Dube said: “It was the kind of judgment that Zanu PF would have wanted because it is the only party which would want to hold elections in a chaotic environment.”
Both parties however said they would respect the court’s decision even if it was bad and participate in the polls.
The Concourt’s decision brings to finality the poll date debate and signals intensification of political party campaigns after the sitting of the Nomination Court last week.
Finance Minister Tendai Biti insists there is still no money to fund elections and he would meet principals next week to discuss funding issues.