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Tsvangirai Seeks Court Help to Question Mugabe's Election Dates

In a move showing widening divisions within the unity government over the date of the country’s next crucial election, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai on Wednesday approached the High Court seeking to become the fourth respondent in a matter in which President Robert Mugabe is seeking an excuse to announce the date of delayed by-elections at the end of this month.

The High Court had given Mr. Mugabe until March 31 to proclaim a date for three by-elections following the expulsion of former lawmakers Abednico Bhebhe, Njabuliso Mguni and Norman Mpofu from the Movement for Democratic Change formation of Industry Minister Welshman Ncube.

Mr. Tsvangirai’s bid is meant to oppose the president’s intention to announce June 29 as the harmonized election date, arguing his co-principal did not consult him.

The prime minister says the move by the head of state is not feasible. The Supreme Court last year ordered the president to announce the dates of the by-elections but Mr. Mugabe approached the lower courts seeking to move the dates to March 31, arguing that the country was too broke to hold both the by-elections and general election.

President Mugabe last week filed an urgent application in the High Court seeking to be excused from proclaiming dates for the three by-elections in Matabeleland by end of the month.

Justice George Chiweshe last year ordered that the by-elections be held by the end of this month.

The presidential application, which was supposed to be heard Wednesday at the High Court in Harare has been postponed to April 3.

The president, represented by Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa, is arguing that following the “yes” vote in the referendum, the situation in the country has changed since a new constitution is likely to be adopted after May 7 when parliament resumes sitting after which dates for general elections would be immediately gazetted.

This would make the by-elections unnecessary. Mr. Chinamasa and President Mugabe insist the elections should be held by June 29 this year.

The principals to the global political agreement agreed on March 25 that Constitutional and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Eric Matinenga and Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa should draft a timeline for the general elections.

Moving the hearing to April 3 would allow Deputy Attorney General, Prince Machaya, who is representing Mr. Mugabe, to respond to the prime minister’s application.

In his affidavit, Mr. Tsvangirai says as the prime minister of Zimbabwe and one of the principals of the Global Political Agreement (GPA), Mr. Mugabe must consult him before making decisions of national importance.

Mr. Tsvangirai says he is surprised by the president’s statements that he will dissolve parliament and call for harmonised elections on or before June 29.

He says he believes Mr. Mugabe’s election timelines are impossible, adding all GPA principals should be consulted. He adds that the finance ministry should also be involved together with the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission.

He further states that Mr. Mugabe makes assumptions that the constitutional bill will be passed in the time frames he has given. The prime minister further says the president must explain why he settled for the timelines given to the courts by his representatives.

Mr. Tsvangirai says if he is joined as the fourth respondent in the matter, he will furnish the court with more facts on why it’s next to impossible for Zimbabwe to hold elections on or before June 29 this year.

As the opposing sides of government have clashed over the move by Mr. Tsvangirai, VOA reporter Tatenda Gumbo spoke to ZANU-PF deputy director of information Psychology Maziwisa, and director of policy and research in with the MDC-T formation, Charles Mangongera.

Mangongera said Mr. Mugabe’s move to call elections by June 29 is a blant violation of the principles of the government of national unity.

But Maziwisa disagrees saying the move is a waste of time and resources as MDC scrambles to by time for elections they are not prepared for.
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