Top court rejects bid to delay elections

The opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) party wanted a delimitation report declared invalid in a bid to delay elections until new voting boundaries had been reviewed.

Zimbabwe will go ahead and hold presidential and legislative elections between July and August, the country’s Constitutional Court ruled.

Zimbabwe’s main opposition party, the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), had sought to have the elections delayed by having the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission’s (ZEC) delimitation report nullified. 

Douglas Mwonzora
MDC’s president Douglas Mwonzora wants to delay elections until the deliting report is reviewedImage: Jekesai Njikizana/AFP/Getty Images

What is delimitation?

Delimitation is a process during which the country is divided into constituencies and wards for election purposes.

When delimitation is unbalanced to favor a particular party, it is known as “gerrymandering” which can be used to manipulate election results.

The MDC was particularly concerned about the delimitation report released in February, which it said drew the electoral boundaries and precincts in a way that favored Zimbabwe’s ruling ZANU-PF party.

The opposition party took their concerns to the country’s Constitutional Court, which rejected their application on the grounds that the MDC could not prove how fundamental rights were being violated and how the delimitation of constituencies affected those rights.

But the party’s president, Douglas Mwonzora, told reporters that the court dismissed the application because it does not hold jurisdiction, and that the Constitutional Court had “made a political judgement.”

‘Country a laughingstock’

“It is an unfair judgement and we don’t accept that judgement. The matter is not stopping here. We are going to continue with our struggle for democracy. We want free and fair elections in Zimbabwe. And there can never be free and fair elections where the delimitation report is so fundamentally flawed,” Mwonzora told DW.

“This is a recipe for disaster for country. It makes our country a laughingstock.”

The MDC was represented by Lovemore Madhuku, a law professor and constitutional lawyer.

“Our clients are very clear they want the delimitation report attended to by a court and a declaration of invalidity made and for that reason they then have to go to the High Court,” Madhuku said.

“So, if they want to fight legally, they will have to go to a court that will issue a declaration of invalidity.”

The ZEC is yet to respond to a request for comment from DW.

Portrait of Zimbabwe President Emmerson Mnangagwa
President Emmerson Mnangagwa will stand for reelectionImage: Dominika Zarzycka/NurPhoto/picture alliance

President intolerant of dissent

Controversies and accounts of irregularities have marred Zimbabwe’s recent elections.

Incumbent leader President Emmerson Mnangagwa, came to power in 2017 after a military coup ousted longtime president Robert Mugabe.

While Zimbabweans initially welcomed the putsch and Mnangagwa’s promise of democratic reforms, rights groups have recently accused him of being as oppressive as Mugabe.

Amnesty International and other rights groups said the arrest and pretrial detention of 50-year-old MDC parliamentarian Job Sikhala and other activists — along with the banning of some political meetings — suggest that Mnangagwa is willing to use the justice system against his political opponents.

The dates for Zimbabwe’s polls have yet to be announced.

This article has been adapted from a radio report that was originally broadcast on DW’s daily radio show, AfricaLink.

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