By Tichaona Sibanda
25 March 2013
A former lawmaker has accused President Robert Mugabe of ‘manipulating the judiciary’ and using ‘scandalous tactics’ to delay three by-elections in Matabeleland constituencies as directed by the Supreme Court.
Abednico Bhebhe, who lost his Nkayi South parliamentary seat after he was expelled as an MDC-N legislator four years ago, blasted the ZANU PF leader for his ‘abuse of power and law’ in not calling for the by-elections in Bulilima East, Lupane East and Nkayi South.
Bhebhe, now the deputy organising secretary for the MDC-T, told SW Radio Africa that Mugabe has not always told the truth as to why he decided not to have elections in the three constituencies. The three MP’s took Mugabe to court in July 2011 asking him to call for by-elections in their former constituencies.
However in October of the same year Mugabe appealed against High Court Judge Justice Nicholas Ndou’s decision ordering him to ensure by-elections in the three constituencies were held, as they were constitutionally long overdue.
That appeal was dismissed by a full bench of the Supreme Court that ordered new elections to fill the vacancies as soon as possible, but by no later than 30 August 2012. However Mugabe appealed against this ruling and got a reprieve when he was given a March 31st 2013 deadline for him to pronounce the date for the by-elections in the vacant constituencies.
With six days to go before this High Court deadline it appears a government legal team, led by Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa, is next week going to file papers in the courts to further delay the polls.
These reports have apparently incensed the former MP’s who have vowed to expose those that do not follow the laws of the country. Bhebhe made it clear they wanted Mugabe to know that the most important requirement of a President is to uphold the constitution of the country.
‘We want to prove Mugabe did not do what he was required to do by the constitution. He’s manipulating the judiciary and wants to prove he can do things unconstitutionally and get away with it,’ fumed Bhebhe.
A source told SW Radio Africa that Mugabe and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai were likely to discuss an election date during their Monday meeting. Already Mugabe has indicated he wants the harmonized elections held on June 29th but is facing resistance from the two MDC formations who prefer July 27th.
According to the Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO forum, assuming that the constitution was gazetted on 25th March, the earliest date the election could be held would be about 25th July. However Constitutional and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Eric Matinenga said the government will gazette the new charter on 28th March.
In a statement the NGO forum gave a basic explanation of the legal process between the referendum and elections, indicating that parliament must be dissolved before 29th June 2013, failing which it will just automatically be dissolved on that date.
‘An election must then be held no later than 90 days from the date of dissolution of Parliament, that is, by 27 September 2013. The Constitution must now be gazetted and parliament must then debate and pass it 30 days from the date it was gazetted, then the President signs it into law,’ the NGO forum said.
It added that a minimum of 30 days after the new constitution comes in, the Zimbabwe Election Commission shall carry out voter registration to enable those who are not registered to do so.
‘The President proclaims an election after the ZEC exercise. Fourteen days must lapse between the President’s proclamations to the nomination court,’ the statement added.