Court dismisses independent candidate’s petition

 HARARE - The Electoral Court has dismissed a petition by an independent candidate challenging the outcome of elections in Mutoko South constituency, in its first ruling out of 105 petitions filed by ruling ZANU PF party and opposition candidates after the March 29 elections.

The independent candidate, Hilary Simbarashe, wanted the Electoral Court to set aside ZANU PF candidate Mabel Chinomona’s victory in Mutoko South alleging that there were irregularities in the voting process.

However, Justice Samuel Kudya on Monday threw out the petition because Simbarashe had failed to provide security for the costs of witnesses and himself as the petitioner.

In addition, Kudya said that Simbarashe’s petition was defective and therefore invalid because it named the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) as a respondent in the matter – a finding certain to have far reaching implications on other petitions pending before the court.

Under the Constitution, the ZEC cannot be sued and can only be summoned to court to act as a witness giving evidence pertaining to itself or clarification on matters affecting it.

Aggrieved candidates should instead, cite ZEC’s chairman, Justice George Chiweshe, as a respondent but not the commission itself.

Several petitions already before the courts are believed to erroneously cite ZEC as one of the respondents.

Fifty-three ZANU PF candidates and 52 MDC candidates are challenging the outcome of elections in their respective constituencies and want the court to set aside the results.

High Court Judge President Rita Makarau has told judges and lawyers involved in the electoral petitions that she wanted the cases heard within the six-month period prescribed under the law.

The Electoral Court can order the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission to hold fresh polls in some or all of the disputed constituencies, a development that could see ZANU PF regain control of Parliament if it wins most of the constituencies where new elections are held.

ZANU PF lost its parliamentary majority for the first time since Zimbabwe’s 1980 independence from Britain when it won 97 seats against 109 garnered by the MDC in the March 29 polls. – ZimOnline

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