Electoral Court upholds Sithembiso Nyoni’s election victory

The MDC-T candidate for Nkayi North constituency, Chief Ndlovu, who challenged current Member of Parliament Sithembiso Nyoni’s victory in last year’s election, had his petition dismissed by the Electoral High Court.

Last year, Ndlovu claimed Nyoni, who was the Zanu PF candidate, now the Minister of Industry and Commerce, won her election through corrupt practices and electoral malpractices such as systematically removing posters and billboards, intimidating voters into voting for her by moving around polling stations during voting hours and recording voter names.

The MDC-T candidate wanted Nyoni’s victory overturned, with the court declaring she was not elected on August 23, 2023, and that her seat in the National Assembly is vacant. An order instructing the Speaker of the National Assembly to notify the president that a vacancy has arisen in the Nkayi North.

However, on February 15, 2024, Bulawayo High Court Judge, Judge Christopher Dube-Banda dismissed the MDC-T’s application with costs saying it was fatally defective and invalid.

“The preliminary points on non-compliance first with Rule 21 of the Electoral (Applications, appeals and petitions) Rules 1995, in that the form used is irregular and second the failure to give security within the timeline provided for in Section 168(3) of the Electoral Act are upheld,” said the judge.

“The election petition is fatally defective, invalid and be and is hereby dismissed with costs.”

Judge Dube-Banda declared that in terms of Section 171(3) of the Electoral Act in the general election held on August 23, 2023, Nyoni was duly elected as MP of Nkayi North.

In his application, the MDC-T candidate had cited Nyoni as the first respondent, Mandla Ndlovu of the Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) as the second respondent, independent candidate Sithabisiwe Matema as third respondent, chairperson of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission as fourth respondent, ZEC as fifth respondent while respondents six to 13 are Nyoni’s polling agents, who he accused of being guilty of corrupt practices that gave rise to his petition.

Ndlovu claimed ZEC failed to conduct the election in Nkayi North following the principles laid down in the Electoral Act in respect of assisted voters in that a substantial number of voters regarded as assisted voters did not qualify as assisted voters but voters unduly influenced to cast votes for Nyoni.

“Over 1 500 voters were assisted to vote, a figure more than 12 percent of the persons who voted. Not only is this figure wholly unrealistic given the very high literacy levels in Nkayi North but also the conduct of ZEC was not in accordance with Section 58 of the Electoral Act,” he said.

“The votes of the over 1 500 persons who were assisted cannot be regarded as the free choice of the voters in question. There was therefore substantial non-compliance with Section 59 of the Electoral Act and this affected the result as there is a reasonable doubt as to who would have won the election had those voters voted either without assistance, strictly in terms of Section 59 of the Electoral Act.”

On Nyoni’s alleged corrupt and electoral malpractices, Ndlovu said before the voting day and during the last week of the campaign, one of her agents led a systematic campaign of removing his billboards and posters.

“She did so at Somthanyelo Business Centre and again at Gwelutshena Business Centre. The removal of these billboards was throughout the constituency and self-evidently prejudiced my campaign and affected the result. Many potential voters in the affected areas may have thought that I had withdrawn from the race. More fundamentally it intimidated voters into thinking that my candidature was a risk to them,” he said.

Ndlovu said Nyoni was declared winner after polling 5 492 votes while came second with 4 065 votes.

“The difference between the two of us was less than 1 500,” said the MDC-T candidate claiming had there been compliance with the Electoral Act, he would have won the election.

However, Nyoni in her notice of opposition described Ndlovu’s petition as “nothing but just a fishing expedition which amounts to frivolous and vexatious litigation.”

Nyoni said the MDC-T candidate’s petition had “no evidence at all that people who were regarded as assisted voters did not qualify.”

The minister added that the allegations against ZEC were “baseless, unfounded and scandalous.”

“I wonder where exactly the petitioner is getting his assertion that Nkayi North has very high literacy levels and that the people assisted by the ZEC were not illiterate,” Nyoni said.

She also denied instructing her agents to remove his billboard and posters asking why he did not report that to police.

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