By Tererai Karimakwenda
09 October 2012
Lawyers representing three former MDC legislators, who are seeking to have by-elections held in their constituencies immediately, are now planning to appeal an extension granted to Robert Mugabe at the High Court last week.
The Supreme Court had ordered Mugabe to call the by-elections by October 1st after an original extension. But just before the new deadline, Mugabe’s lawyers appealed at the High Court on the grounds that too many constituencies were vacant, and the by-election would amount to a mini-general election.
In court papers, the lawyers argued that Mugabe was planning to hold harmonized elections in six months, which would include presidential, constituency and local authority elections at the same time.
Last week the High Court Justice George Chiweshe granted Mugabe his wish, postponing the elections deadline until March next year. But he gave no explanation for the decision. He simply said that reasons would follow.
Representing the three former MPs, Tawanda Zhuwarara from the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) explained that their appeal is being delayed by the absence of a reason for the extension granted by Chiweshe. He said they have now written to the registrar of the High Court seeking to have Chiweshe’s reasons revealed.
Zhuwarara said: “Without being furnished with how the judge reasoned, it is extremely difficult to draft what is called a notice of appeal. The High Court did not have jurisdiction, in our view, to even entertain the amendment of a Supreme Court confirmed order. So that in itself can be easily dispensed with.”
The lawyer said there is no statutory provision stipulating a specified period of time within which a judge must issue his reasons. The defence team, led by Beatrice Mtetwa, are also considering other ways to try to get the High Court to issue Justice Chiweshe’s reasons.
The case started last October when MPs Abednico Bhebhe, Njabuliso Mguni and Norman Mpofu were fired as MPs for Nkayi South, Lupane East and Bulilima East by the Welshman Ncube-led MDC. They had been accused of cooperating with the MDC led by Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai.
The death of the Higher and Tertiary Education Minister Stan Mudenge last Friday increased the number of vacant parliamentary seats to 28. And the death last month of MDC-T Senator Josiah Rimbi from Chipinge raised the number of vacant constituencies to 39. In addition, more than a 160 local authority seats are reportedly empty.