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Constitutional Court Blocks Zimbabwe Diaspora Vote

  • Thomas Chiripasi

Supreme Court of Zimbabwe

Supreme Court of Zimbabwe

Zimbabweans in the diaspora were Friday denied the right to participate in the country’s forthcoming elections when the Constitutional Court dismissed an application by a South African-based Zimbabwean who wanted some sections of the Electoral Act that bar postal voting struck off the statute books.

Their hopes were dashed following the dismissal of Tavengwa Bukaibenyu’s application for sections of the Electoral Act that bar Zimbabweans living outside the country from voting to be declared unconstitutional.

Bukaibenyu argued that barring Zimbabweans in the diaspora from voting violated their rights to participate in national processes. The law says only those working at the country’s embassies and others on national duty outside the country are allowed to participate in elections in Zimbabwe through postal voting.

But the Constitutional Court bench of nine judges dismissed the application with reasons yet to be made public. The ruling means that an estimated four million Zimbabweans will not have a say in this year’s elections that will end the unity government formed four years ago following the disputed 2008 polls.

The court also dismissed an application filed by Gadzamoyo Dewa, leader of the newly formed Good People’s Movement party, who wanted Friday’s nomination court sitting delayed to pave way for the completion of the on-going mobile voter registration exercise.

Dewa, who represented himself, told the court that with the mobile voter registration exercise coming to a close on July 9, allowing Friday’s sitting of the nomination court to proceed would result in those yet to be registered as voters failing to participate in this year’s elections as candidates.

The Electoral Act stipulates that one has to be registered as a voter in a particular constituency for the person to be allowed to stand as a candidate in national elections.

The court said it will explain its reasons in a full judgment.

Dewa told reporters after the court session that he was not happy with the manner in which the court is handling constitutional matters.

In another election-related case that was before the same court, suspended Mutare mayor Brian Leslie James was given the green light to contest in municipal elections.

The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) had barred him from submitting his nomination papers arguing that the Electoral Act barred him from doing so as his suspension by Local Government Minister Ignatius Chombo was still in place.

James’ attorney, Advocated Thabani Mpofu, argued that barring his client from participating in the council elections would violate his rights because Mr. Chombo, whom he says suspended him in unclear circumstances, had not conducted an inquiry.

Minister Chombo’s lawyer, Mike Chimombe, said James should not be allowed to participate in this year’s elections. He said allowing him to do so would not be in the public interest.

Mr. Mpofu countered that saying the 45-day period that an inquiry should have been conducted by the minister did not take place even up to now since James’ suspension last year.

He added that the public would not suffer any prejudice because James does not even know the allegations he is facing.

The court’s ruling clears the way for others in similar situations to participate in this year’s polls. Reasons for the granting of the application will also be outlined in the court’s full judgment.

Next week, the Constitutional Court is expected to hear applications filed by Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and Industry Minister Welshman Ncube, leader of the other Movement for Democratic Change formation, who are challenging President Robert Mugabe’s proclamation of July 31 as the date of national elections.

Mr. Tsvangirai and Professor Ncube are also opposing Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa’s request to defer the polls to August 14.

Tsvangirai and Ncube argue that key democratic reforms have to be implemented first before elections are called in line with resolutions of the Southern African Development Community’s summit held in the Mozambican capital, Maputo, on June 15.
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