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Court hears Tsvangirai’s poll petition

Court hears Tsvangirai’s poll petition

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Published: 14 August 2013

THE High Court will, on Wednesday, hear two petitions by MDC-T leader Morgan Tsvangirai in which he wants the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) to release voting data and related material to help back his main legal challenge to the July 31 elections.

Tsvangirai was hammered by President Robert Mugabe in last month’s elections, his third unsuccessful attempt to topple the veteran Zanu PF leader who has run the country since independence in 1980.

Mugabe won an emphatic 61 percent of the presidential vote against 34 percent for his main rival. The result extends for five more years Mugabe’s 33-year rule. His Zanu PF also claimed a two thirds majority in the legislative elections.

Tsvangirai rejected the outcome, claiming massive fraud and, last Friday, filed papers at the Constitutional Court arguing Mugabe’s re-election should be annulled because of what his MDC-T party describes as widespread illegalities and intimidation of voters.

MDC leader, Welshman Ncube, who contested the presidential vote, also dismissed the elections illegitimate but said a legal fight would be futile because of Mugabe’s supposed control of the country’s courts.

“It is … our well-considered view that taking this matter to court will be akin to going to Robert Mugabe and asking him to reverse his ‘victory’�, Ncube said in his post-election statement.

But the MDC-T party claims to have in its possession evidence proving that the vote was hugely manipulated and also plans to challenge its defeat in the legislative elections.

“We are going to submit good evidence in our view. We want a fresh election within 60 days. The prayer that we seek is to declare the election null and void,â€� MDC-T spokesman, Douglas Mwonzora said as party lawyers filed papers at the Constitutional Court last week.

Privately though, MDC-T officials concede that the challenge has little, if any, chance of prospering but hope that public exposure of the way the vote was “rigged� will help embarrass Mugabe and, possibly, undermine his legitimacy.

On Wednesday, Justice Chinembiri Bhunu will hear two urgent chamber applications in which the out-going premier wants the court to compel ZEC to release “material and information critical to the presidential petition�.

In the first application, Tsvangirai wants ZEC to provide him with the specific number of spoilt ballots that were cast in the presidential election per constituency, the number of assisted voters who cast their votes in the presidential poll per constituency and the specific number of voters that were turned away and failed to cast their ballot on polling day per constituency.

In addition, the MDC-T leader is requesting 14 different election records, including full Presidential results per constituency, copies of the voters’ roll used in all polling stations, copies of voters’ roll used in the special voting process on July 14 and 15 this year, the register of those who managed to cast their vote in the special voting process of July 14 and 15 among other things.

“The real issue is if he does receive this data he wants from the ZEC, will he find the proof he needs to prove that there was election fraud. I think that’s where this whole affair hinges.”

Observers from the African Union and the regional SADC grouping – which helped facilitate reforms leading to the July 31 vote – have since endorsed the elections.

Regional leaders – with the exception of Botswana’s Ian Khama – have also commended Mugabe on his decisive victory but Western countries, which were barred from observing the elections by the Zanu PF leader for imposing sanctions against Zimbabwe, are backing Tsvangirai’s claim that the vote was not credible.

Clearly angered by the West’s reservations which could see crippling sanctions remain in place and, possibly, the fact he cannot be inaugurated until Tsvangirai’s legal challenge is concluded, Mugabe, this week, blasted critics of the vote, telling them they could “go hang�.

Speaking in public for the first time after the elections, a defiant Mugabe said Monday that he would not tolerate any questioning of his victory either from the West or local rivals.

“If they cannot stomach it, they can go and hang. We’re delivering democracy on a platter, on a platter. Do you take it? We say take it or leave it.

The country’s new constitution gives the courts 14 days to determine Tsvangirai’s poll petition which was filed last Friday. If the challenge is thrown out, Mugabe be would be sworn in within 48 hours from the determination of the case.

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