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Zimbabwe Polls in Doubt as Court Postpones Election Date Hearing

Morgan Tsvangirai
The Constitutional Court on Wednesday postponed hearing cases on the country's election date, an issue at the center of rising tensions between major political players in the country as President Robert Mugabe was not represented.

The same court granted Zimbabweans dual citizenship after it ruled in businessman Mutumwa Mawere’s favor.

The election date and rules of the game still hang in the balance only two days before the sitting of the nomination court following a postponement by the Constitutional Court to hear cases that have a bearing on this year’s elections.

This followed applications by Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and Professor Welshman Ncube, leader of the other MDC formation, asking the Constitutional Court to review its order to have elections before July 31.

Prior to the summit of Southern African Development Community held in the Mozambican capital, Maputo, on June 15, President Mugabe had proclaimed July 31 as the election date with June 28 set aside as nomination day.

But his governing partners in the unity government, Mr. Tsvangirai and Mr. Ncube, made representations to SADC opposing his action. The regional bloc then asked Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa to ask the Constitutional Court to extend the poll date by at least two weeks to allow Harare to implement key democratic reforms to pave way for the holding of credible elections.

Mr. Chinamasa’s attorney, Freddy Gijima, told the court that the justice minister was opposing both Mr. Tsvangirai and Professor Ncube’s counter applications seeking to invalidate the president’s proclamation of July 31 as the date of national elections after Chinamasa had approached the court seeking to extend election dates to August 14 in line with SADC recommendations.

The hearing of the arguments failed to kick off after Gijima told the court that he had no instructions from Mr. Mugabe, who was cited as a respondent in Professor Ncube’s counter application. President Mugabe is currently seeking medical help in Singapore.

The court said another case brought up by human rights activist Nixon Nyikadzino, who wants an extension of the election date. Nyikadzino is arguing that holding elections on July 31 does not leave enough time to complete all the processes required for elections under the law.

At the time of going on air, lawyers representing Chinamasa, Tsvangirai and Ncube were meeting with Chief Justice Godfrey Chidyausiku to agree on a date when the case will be heard next in light of Friday’s nomination court sitting and the expiry of the life of parliament midnight the same day.

Meanwhile, the court threw out the application by Zimbabwe Development Party leader Kisinoti Mukwazhe seeking an order compelling authorities to fund political parties outside government.

Mukwazhe, who represented himself, told the court that the political parties finance act gave an unfair advantage to parties in government, arguing parties represented in parliament were the only ones accessing funding under the law.

He said this does not promote multi-party democracy as enshrined in the country’s constitution.

However, the court dismissed the application with reasons to follow.

Mukwazhe said several opposition parties may not be able to participate in this year’s elections following the ruling.

Meanwhile, the court also granted South Africa-based Zimbabwean businessman, Mutumwa Mawere, an order compelling Registrar General Tobaiwa Mudede to issue him a national identity document.

The court said Mudede should not demand Mawere to first renounce his South African citizenship before he can be issued with an identity document. The court said denying Mawere identity documents infringes on his constitutional right to vote.

In another case, the court reserved judgment indefinitely in a matter in which a South Africa-based Zimbabwean citizen, Tavengwa Bukaibenyu, wants Zimbabweans in the diaspora to be allowed to vote.

The upcoming elections will end the fragile unity government formed after the disputed polls of 2008.