MDC wins electoral fraud case

HARARE - A Supreme Court ruling that the country's electoral court is unconstitutional represented a landmark victory for the Movement for Democratic Change, but left the opposition still without legal recourse for its complaints of electoral fraud in 16 constituencies in the March 2005 elections.

R>The entire bench of Supreme Court judges, minus the Chief Justice, struck down a provision of the Electoral Act that allowed the Chief Justice to name judges of the electoral court, which was set up in early 2005. The 16 petitions, plus a complaint by Roy Bennett about being disqualified to run in the Chimanimani district, thus remain alive.
But the problem for the MDC and lawyers Atherstone and Cook – now consulting over what to do next – is that the six-month period in which elections petitions had to be determined has lapsed while the Robert Mugabe regime refused to correct the law.
“There must be, at law, some solution or remedy to the Petitioners to cure this injustice, since the Supreme Court specifically recognised that they were denied a fair hearing within a reasonable time by a properly constituted court,” lawyers Chris Mhike and Sheila Jarvis said in a statement after the July 25 judgement.
The MDC said the ruling was a landmark in many respects: it meant that Zanu (PF) has a fraudulent two-thirds majority in Parliament because there is no proper electoral court to deal with electoral cheating. Also, the 16 MDC petitions filed after the fraudulent 2005 parliamentary elections ought to be heard by a properly constituted body.
But the tragedy, said MDC Justice Secretary Innocent Gonese, is that the six months has elapsed “because of the deliberate ineptitude of this government and its determination to suppress the popular will.”
“We have said it before and we say it now for all those who care to listen – the electoral environment in Zimbabwe is skewed in favour of the dictatorship and therefore elections cannot be the exclusive method of achieving change in Zimbabwe,” added Gonese.
Lawyers Mhike and Jarvis said that although all decisions made by the Electoral Court of 2005 are null and void, some of the court’s factual findings were sound. For example, the court found that in Makoni North voters were physically attacked, food distribution was politicised, and resettled farmers were threatened with losing the land if they voted for the MDC.
The ruling, the lawyers added, showed how “distorted and unreasonable the law now is.” In Makoni North – and the same applied to other test trials – the judge specifically found that voters were robbed of a free election, but there was nothing she could do because of the Electoral Act. – Own correspondent

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