By Alex Bell & Violet Gonda
10 April 2013
Three former MPs who have been fighting Robert Mugabe’s refusal to call by-elections in constituencies they used to represent, have filed an urgent application in the Supreme Court challenging a ruling by the High Court allowing the President to prolong the process.
The ex-legislators Norman Mpofu, Abednico Bhebhe and Njabuliso Mguni lost their seats after being fired by the Welshman Ncube led MDC four years ago. But they successfully approached the courts in July 2011 in a bid to force Mugabe to call for by-elections in their areas.
Mugabe then appealed against High Court Judge Justice Nicholas Ndou’s order to ensure the by-elections were held. 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 30th August 2012.
However Mugabe once again appealed and was granted a reprieve when he was given a March 31st 2013 deadline for him to pronounce the date for the by-elections. This ruling was ignored at the dates were never set.
High Court Judge George Chiweshe last week then moved to allow Mugabe to ignore the Supreme Court order, ruling in his favour that the by-elections be further postponed. Mugabe now has until June 29th to set a date.
Chiweshe said in his reasoning that the holding of the by-elections now would be costly and unnecessary because the life of Parliament would end by June 29th.
The former MPs, who also plan to contest as parliamentarians on an MDC-T ticket, are now appealing this decision arguing that the High Court had no jurisdiction in this matter.
There are currently 40 vacant constituencies in the country but lawyer Thabani Mpofu said the application is only for by-elections in Bulilima East, Lupane East and Nkayi South.
“We believe there is still time and if a favorable judgment is rendered the elections will be conducted and they will be able to serve the people in their respective constituencies,” Mpofu told SW Radio Africa.
President Mugabe has said there is no money and time to hold separate by-elections on top of preparing for harmonized elections. “The counter argument to that question is how practical is it for the court to condone disobedience with its own orders?” Mpofu asked.
The lawyer said his clients should be in parliament and “at the end of the day there is no one in this country who is obliged to go for one day without adequate representation simply because the President does not want to comply with an order of the court.”