WASHINGTON DC —
The Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) formation of outgoing Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai has withdrawn its petition to the Constitutional Court seeking to nullify Zimbabwe's presidential election results and call for fresh polls.
MDC spokesperson Douglas Mwonzora said the party would not proceed with the matter because the Electoral Court has still not ruled to require the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) to reveal key information, such as the total number of people who voted and the number of voters who were assisted, as well as provide an electronic copy of the voters roll and other election-related documentation.
Douglas Mwonzora provides several reasons for the MDC's withdrawal of the petition.
When asked how the party intended to proceed, Mr. Mwonzora said, “This is a political matter and a political case and we are going to deal with it politically.” The party will now likely attempt to increase pressure on the Southern African Development Community (SADC), which meets this weekend in Malawi.
SADC has said it would not consider any possible actions on Zimbabwe while the election controversy was before the Zimbabwean courts. Though SADC, the African Union and several other election observer missions labeled the July 31st elections “peaceful” and “free,” they have so far not called them “credible.”
The MDC Deputy President Thokozani Khupe and other party officials are in Malawi already, according to Mwonzora.
“Some of our officials are already there. And our vice president is already there. Whether it is going to be formal in the sense that we’ll be invited into the main session, we do not know yet,” Mwonzora said, “but we will make representation to SADC of what went on in this election. And this is at the invitation of SADC itself.”
A Fair Hearing 'Extremely Doubtful'
Addressing reporters earlier in the day, Mr. Mwonzora had called the delay in releasing ZEC’s election-related information deliberate, intended to handicap the party in its Constitutional Court case.
“Given [the court’s] path,” Mr. Mwonzora had said, “it is extremely doubtful whether the MDC will receive a fair hearing in this case. A fair hearing includes being able to put the facts that you want before the courts. It is therefore clear that without this crucial material being availed to the MDC, the MDC will be prejudiced in the prosecution of this very important case.”
Mwonzora had also expressed concern over the Constitutional Court’s aggressive timeline, saying the schedule did not allow enough time for certain legal processes to be completed properly. “We have given our opponents seven days’ notice of our case and they’ve studied our case,” he said. “The Constitutional Court has given us less than 24 hours to study their response.”
The court had also ruled that it would not permit oral evidence to be presented at the hearings. That decision prevented, Mwonzora said, the party from cross examining key witnesses, such as Registrar General Tobaiwa Mudede.
“We were expecting, naturally, that one of the witnesses who may be brought by the respondents is the registrar-general,” Mwonzora explained, “and therefore it would have been important to cross-examine the registrar-general.”
Mwonzora had also said during the afternoon press conference that the absence of key evidence might force the party’s lawyers to decide not to proceed with the case.
“We are saying that in the absence of that crucial material,” he had told reporters, “MDC is handicapped in the prosecution and of course it reserves its rights of a litigant whether to proceed or not to proceed. But we would have wanted to proceed with this matter because everybody is waiting for it. Every Zimbabwean is waiting for it. We were genuine in prosecuting this matter.”
Mwonzora questioned why ZEC, the Registrar-General and President Robert Mugabe’s party would oppose the MDC’s request for the release of election material if the results were genuinely free and fair.
While SADC and nations like China and Iran have largely endorsed the results of the July 31st elections, Western nations, such as the United States, the UK, and Australia have said evidence they gathered from civil society, media reports, and informal observations indicates that the election results were marred by serious irregularities and must be thoroughly investigated. Zanu-PF barred Western nations from sending monitoring missions, saying they were unable to be impartial.