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Appeals Court Sets Aside Order to Arrest Tsvangirai Lawyers

Former Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai addressing journalists in Harare last year.
The Supreme Court of Appeal has set aside a High Court order compelling the Attorney General’s office and the police to investigate and charge lawyers who represented former Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai in his electoral petition case for their alleged contemptuous behavior in court.

High Court judge Chinembiri Bhunu last year issued an order compelling the investigation and arrest Mr. Tsvangirai’s lawyers for being in contempt of court. Justice Bhunu had ruled that the former premier’s lawyers were in contempt after remarking that they had brought their case to court fully aware that the decision would not go in their favor.

However, deputy Chief Justice Luke Malaba on Thursday said the Supreme Court found that there was no support in papers filed before the court to suggest that Mr. Tsvangirai’s lawyers’ utterances were contemptuous.

Advocate Lewis Uriri, who was representing Mr. Tsvangirai, said there was consensus from all the parties that appeared in court on that matter.

Regarding election material that Mr. Tsvangirai wanted to be opened by the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission to allow for a vote re-count, the situation will remain the same after Uriri abandoned his written submission saying it was now merely academic to do so given the political developments in the country.

The electoral body has since destroyed the election material in line with the law.

ZEC attorney Tawanda Kanengoni confirmed that there will not be any opening of the ballot boxes containing voting material used in the July 31 national elections.

The High Court had ruled ZEC should not be compelled to open the ballot boxes adding the court had no jurisdiction to hear the matter.

Mr. Tsvangirai wanted access to the voting material so he could use it in his main application challenging the outcome of the elections that he maintains were rigged by President Robert Mugabe and his Zanu PF party. The former Prime Minister later withdrew his court challenge citing failure to access the evidence that he wanted following the High Court ruling.

Mr. Mugabe romped to a landslide victory winning the ballot by 61 percent of the total votes cast in the July 31 elections. The elections were endorsed by the Southern African Development Community, the African Union and the Common Market for East and Southern Africa while Mr. Tsvangirai and the rest of the international community described the polls as fundamentally flawed.