The legal battle to nullify election results, that gave Robert Mugabe a landslide victory, is turning into a judicial nightmare for the MDC-T leader Morgan Tsvangirai, who has now turned to the Supreme Court to challenge a lower court’s decision.
Tsvangirai’s lawyers filed a notice of appeal Wednesday at the Supreme Court, challenging an Electoral Court ruling from last week, which denied them access to election materials that were used by the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC).
In their original application, the lawyers said they need the materials as evidence in their election challenge at the Constitutional Court, which they withdrew last Friday but were forced to proceed with by the court.
In his ruling last week, Justice Chinembiri Bhunu also berated the conduct of Tsvangirai’s lawyers, accusing them of making scathing comments against the judiciary in court papers. Bhunu referred a copy of the judgment to the Attorney General and recommended that the lawyers be prosecuted for contempt of court.
Lawyer Alec Muchadehama told SW Radio Africa that the appeal filed Wednesday at the Supreme Court is challenging every aspect of Bhunu’s Electoral Court ruling, including the attack on lawyers.
“So we are saying to the Supreme Court the electoral court erred in holding that the matter before it was not urgent and therefore declined to deal with it on its merits. We also appeal against the electoral court finding that it had no jurisdiction or power to deal with the matter that was before it,” Muchadehama explained
Regarding the contempt of court charges recommended by Justice Bhunu, Muchadehama said the lawyers’ conduct was not a matter for the Electoral Court to deal with, since their comments were included in papers filed at the ConCourt.
He added that the comments Bhunu reacted to had actually been made by their client, Morgan Tsvangirai, and lawyers are not supposed to be associated with their clients’ causes.
“To make such a finding is quite serious because it goes to the very root of the legal profession and its practice. It’s like saying that lawyers did not respect the court and no lawyer would want to do that. No lawyer wants to be in contempt,” the lawyer insisted.
Tsvangirai’s Supreme Court appeal is the next step in a legal battle in an attempt to nullify results from the July 31st elections, which he says was marred by irregularities and rigged through manipulation of the voters roll.
Asked if he expected justice in a court where the judges have a history of ruling in favour of Robert Mugabe, Muchadehama said: “We have no doubt that if the judges apply their minds the way that we expect them to, they must be able to dispense justice in accordance to their oath of office. I want to really give them the benefit of the doubt.”
Some observers say the courts are a waste of time as they are biased in Mugabe’s favour and others say the legal process at least documents abuses by the Mugabe regime.