Constitutional Court to hear 6 urgent election applications Wednesday

Wednesday will be a busy day for the constitutional court which will hear six cases in one day, most of them to do with issues concerning registration and procedures in the run up to elections. One of the key issues in many of these cases is the registration period leading to elections. The new constitution says there needs to be a 30 day period of intensive registration prior to the next elections and it would appear that there will not be time for this if the poll is held on 31st July.

One of the applications is from Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, seeking an extension of the July 31st election date.

In his court papers, filed on Monday, Tsvangirai accuses President Robert Mugabe of unilaterally setting the election date and also of stating the wrong date for the sitting of the nomination court.

“The proclamation is defective because it does not state the day or days on which the nomination court for President, the National Assembly and council will be held. Thursday the 28th of June is not a date which appears on any calendar,” Tsvangirai said (the 28th June is actually a Friday).

The Prime Minister also said the two week extension period requested by Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa in papers filed last week was also inadequate and more time is needed to prepare.

He added: “What informs my views that a two week extension is not adequate are considerations, as stated, that both the proclamation and the Presidential Electoral Regulations will have first to be set aside, withdrawn or realigned to the law before a legitimate election can take place. I respectfully emphasise the need to prevent a legitimacy deficit which would plunge the country into further uncertainty.”

Legal expert Derek Matyszak said Mugabe’s gaffe over the nomination court date is a ‘minor’ error. “He (Mugabe) referred to June 28th as being a Thursday when it is in fact a Friday but that’s a simple issue to correct. I don’t see that too much can be made of that.

“What’s of more importance is that the constitution does not allow the electoral law to be made by the Presidential Powers Temporary Measures Act. The Presidential Powers Temporary Measures Act itself does not allow the president to use that Act to make electoral law and furthermore the new constitution provides that when there is any change to electoral law the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission must be consulted first, and clearly that wasn’t done.”

Tsvangirai also told the court that reforms need to be put in place before elections but Matyszak said that is not a legal argument, it’s a political argument. He said the MDC-T should focus on the legal issues, which is that the date given by the court could not be complied with because there are other provisions of the constitution that would be breached if the date of July 31st is adhered to.

Meanwhile, ZANU PF Politburo member Jonathan Moyo dismissed the arguments that say there is no time for the voter registration exercise. “Voter registration is a continuous exercise, you can always at any time of your choice, go to any of the offices around the country and register. In terms of paragraph 6:3 of the sixth schedule of the new constitution, there was supposed to be a particular programme of voter registration intensified to last at least 30 days. Constitutionally and legally, that started on the 23rd of May. In terms of logistics, practically, politically, it might be another thing but there was registration continuing.

“In terms of the presidential powers that amended the Electoral Act to align it with the new constitution, Section 11 of those amendment regulations allows the registration exercise to continue beyond the nomination, until the 9th of July. In fact we would have had really the longest intensive exercise ever done before an election in our country,” Moyo said on the Hot Seat programme.

The urgent chamber applications that will be heard by the constitutional court are

• Patrick Chinamasa ‘s election date extension

• Mutumwa Mawere ‘s dual citizenship rights application

• Tavengwa Bukaibenyu on the Diaspora Vote

• Zimbabwe Development Party on Political Parties campaign funds.

• Nixon Nyikadzino on the extension of election dates. He says his rights for free and fair elections will be infringed if polls are held on July 31 without the necessary electoral processes.

• And Maria Phiri, who seeks an election date extension to allow former aliens to register. – SW Radio Africa News

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