HARARE – Zimbabwe’s High Court is expected to hear today a challenge by Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai’s ex-fiancée Locadia Karimatsenga to the PM’s impending wedding to Elizabeth Macheka on Saturday.
High Court judge Justice Antonio Guvava will hear arguments in chambers on the controversy which has a wider sensitivity for Zimbabweans, shining a spotlight on marriage laws.
It is not immediately clear if the PM will be present in court or if he will testify, an unprecedented situation that makes him the first sitting Zimbabwe prime minister to do so as a civil defendant.
The challenge was brought last week by Karimatsenga, who claims she is still married to Tsvangirai.
It is the latest development in Tsvangirai’s long history of legal woes.
It comes at a time when Karimatsenga is in the headlines for another politically-sensitive and related maintenance suit for $15 000 per month against Tsvangirai.
The 60-year-old PM has said he suspects that all this is part of vast conspiracy dubbed “Operation Spiderweb” and “Operation Blackhawk” to discredit and destroy him by portraying him as immoral and a liar.
Tsvangirai, whose poll ratings have sagged through the coalition government era, claims pro-President Robert Mugabe’s state security agents have waged a $100 million campaign ahead of crucial elections to dent his moral standing.
In the case before the High Court, Karimatsenga argues that the impending wedding between Tsvangirai and Elizabeth will be prejudicial to her as it invalidates her traditional wedding to the PM.
She claims she married the PM in a traditional ceremony in Mazowe in November last year.
The PM denies this, and says he only paid a reported $36 000 in “damages”, a crude term used to describe compensation for impregnating a woman out of wedlock.
The mother of one claims she fell pregnant with the PM’s twins, and later miscarried at a South African hospital.
The case has given new fodder to Tsvangirai’s adversaries while also raising alarm about the prospects of a ruling in Karimatsenga’s favour, which could derail the planned wedding ceremony at the exclusive Raintree Gardens in Umwinsidale.
Several international leaders were expected to jet into Harare this week for the wedding, with hundreds of guests invited.
The 39-year-old Karimatsenga wants the High Court to stop the wedding saying her “husband” is “mentally devastated” by the miscarriage and is making a rushed decision to marry Macheka before resolving the issue with her.
“He is a good man and if he seeks psychological and psychiatric assistance, he can return to his old condition of being a caring and loving husband,” she says in her urgent application filed in the High Court.
Tsvangirai had earlier said he stood by his November2011 statement that it was over between him and Karimatsenga and that his wedding to 35-year-old Macheka, the daughter of former Chitungwiza mayor and Zanu PF central committee member Joseph Macheka, is going ahead as planned.
But the commodity broker argues if Macheka marries her “husband” under the Marriages Act Chapter 5:11 she will not be entitled to any of the privileges and rights that she has been entitled to as a spouse, such as conjugal rights, love, affection and companionship.
Bishop Levee Kadenge of the Methodist Church, who was going to solemnise the wedding, is cited as a respondent in the suit.
The Registrar General and custodian of marriage registry documents, Tobaiwa Mudede, is also cited in his official capacity. Mudede is responsible for issuing the marriage certificate and registering it.
He is capable of withdrawing the marriage and preventing the bishop from issuing out the marriage certificate.
The wedding now hinges on today’s High Court case.
Karimatsenga’s lawyer Jonathan Samkange, an aspiring Zanu PF MP in Mudzi, claims he fired early warnings to Tsvangirai to settle the matter with his client before planning his wedding but he claims the PM ignored pleas for an out-of-court settlement.
Tsvangirai’s lawyer Innocent Chagonda says he will defend the action.
The case comes at a moment of particular vulnerability.
The premier has been politically jolted by a recent opinion poll that claims he is lagging behind Mugabe by one percent.
Many of his political allies claim the push by Karimatsenga was the latest attempt to hurt the premier’s job ratings but are hopeful he will survive the scandal.
The Zimbabwean media and society has been intrigued by the case but more interesting has been the response of the public, with some speculating that the case would finally derail Tsvangirai’s ambitions which could cost his popular support. Daily News