Electoral Court reserves judgement in Gwanda South election case

The Electoral Court has reserved judgement in the case of Patrick Dube, a Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) member, who is challenging Zanu PF MP Omphile Marupi’s election in Gwanda South last year.

Marupi was recently appointed Deputy Minister of Information, Publicity, and Broadcasting Services.

Dube claimed Marupi benefitted from various electoral irregularities such as voter intimidation, malpractices, rigging and vote buying.

Dube, represented by Mathonsi Ncube Law Chambers, requested the court to nullify Marupi’s victory as the MP and order fresh elections in Gwanda South.

Judge David Mangota of the Bulawayo High Court heard the case on February 22, 2024, and reserved judgement.

In his election petition, the CCC candidate said he was “stunned” to see Zanu PF-branded tables within 300 metres of the polling stations established in Gwanda South.

“In some tables, one Rosemary Maphosa of Chief Nhlamba Sengezane Village, Gwanda amongst others manned a table and recorded a register of names of people as they entered and exited polling stations,” he said.

“These persons were informing voters that they should vote properly and vote for Zanu PF and not any other party. These tables were located in all the 11 wards. I am advised, which advice I hold to be true and correct, that these actions were unlawful and against the provisions of the Electoral Act and practice.”

Dube said he was informed about the threat of violence, and intimidation from Zanu PF agents who told them, if they did not vote for Zanu PF, they would be “killed or made to disappear.”

“Furthermore, I discovered that some members of the Zanu PF party had infiltrated themselves into the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) and were in fact purporting to be polling officers on the day and were assisting voters to vote for Zanu PF,” said the petitioner.

He noted that he found such to be an intimidatory tactic on voters because known community members of Zanu PF were able to be part and parcel of ZEC teams and this made voters feel pressured in the voting booths.

“I also discovered there were some Zanu PF activists who were giving food stuff like drinks and Chicken Inn to nearby villages campaigning and urging the voters to vote for Zanu PF and they will be given more food,” Dube said, adding people were told to have their names registered by the Forever Associates of Zimbabwe (FAZ) desks.

Dube argued that the election in Gwanda South was marred by gross electoral malpractices, irregularities and other causes as well as failure to comply with electoral laws resulting in an undue election and undue return.

“I was also shocked when I discovered that the V23 form for the National Assembly had two separate dates. The first date is from the Constituency Election Officer, Khauhelo Mlea and Ranganai Sibanda, the deputy Constituency Election Officer wherein they signed and declared (Marupi) as the winner on 24 August 2023 and yet the polling against signed and confirmed the results on 25 August 2023,” he said.

Meanwhile, Marupi through his lawyers, Nqobizitha Ndlovu of Cheda and Cheda Associates, said Dube’s petition was “nothing but just a fishing expedition which amounts to frivolous and vexatious litigation.”

“The petition is out of time, fatally defective on account of non-compliance with Rule 21 of the Electoral (Applications, Appeals and Petitions) Rules 1995 and was not compliant with Section 168 (3) and 196 of the Electoral Act.

On the merits, Marupi said he was also within the constituency but “never saw the alleged Zanu PF branded tables.”

“If indeed the alleged Zanu PF branded tables were within the 300 metres of polling stations, why did the petitioner not report the unlawful conduct to the police?” he asked.

“It is very improbable that the petitioner, a candidate, would have witnessed such unlawful acts in 11 wards and failed to make a single police report.”

Marupi also denied knowing of any Zanu PF agents who were allegedly threatening people, saying Dube should have reported them to the police.

“Further and in any event, the alleged voters did not aver that they voted for me. There are therefore no allegations that people who wanted to vote for the petitioner voted for me due to alleged threats and intimidations,” said the MP.

“If indeed the alleged Zanu PF members had infiltrated ZEC and were purporting to be polling officers, why did the petitioner not report such to the police?”.

The Zanu PF MP said there is no basis at all for the nullification of his elections.

“The petitioner dismally failed to lay out a case for the nullification of the results,” Marupi said.

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