President Robert Mugabe has filed an urgent High Court application seeking a one-month extension of the August 30 deadline set recently by the Supreme Court for announcing dates for by-elections in Zimbabwe’s three parliamentary constituencies in rural Matabeleland region.
The president’s move is seen by critics as an attempt to stall Thursday’s deadline for holding the polls in Bulilima East, Lupane East and Nkayi South.
Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa told the state-controlled Herald newspaper that he filed the application on behalf of President Mugabe.
Although Finance Minister Tendai Biti last week said there was no money for holding the by elections, Chinamasa noted that plans are underway to hold by-elections for 28 vacant parliamentary seats and 164 local authority positions.
Chinamasa said if given more time to comply, government will be able to raise money to conduct the plebiscites in what he described as a mini-general election.
“There is no province or administrative district which is spared from this by-election one way or the other, either at local or parliamentary level,” he said.
Abednico Bhebhe, one of the plaintiffs who wants to contest the Nkayi South seat on Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai’s Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) ticket, told Studio 7 they are preparing an opposing affidavit.
“As I talk to you right now, our lawyers are working on the necessary papers,” he said.
For a legal analysis of the issue, human rights lawyer Matshobana Ncube of Abameli Legal Practitioners said there is nothing wrong with the appeal except that the reasons given by the president are flimsy.
Rindai Chifunde-Vava, director of the Zimbabwe Election Support Network said her organization is not happy with the delay.
Independent attorney Terrance Hussein said the appeal was filed according to the laws of the country.
The seats became vacant after the incumbents were fired from the MDC wing led by Industry Minister Welshman Ncube.
They have since crossed the floor to join the other formation led Mr. Tsvangirai and want to contest under this party.