Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Zimbabwe News Bulletin: High Court Rejects MDC-T Petition; Pohamba Reject Rigging Claims; Mwanawasa Erred

High Court rejects MDC-T petition

By Takunda Maodza and Peter Matambanadzo

HIGH Court judge Justice Tendayi Uchena yesterday dismissed with costs an application by MDC-T seeking an order compelling the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission to announce results of the presidential election.

"The application has been dismissed with costs," said MDC-T lawyer Mr Alec Muchadehama, in a brief statement to journalists.

He would not reveal his client’s next course of action, saying he needed to get the full written judgment first.

The ruling was passed in chambers and Justice Uchena said the full judgment and reasons would follow later.

Mr George Chikumbirike, who represented ZEC in the case, also confirmed the dismissal with costs of the MDC-T urgent application.

MDC-T went to court on April 5, arguing that the delay in the announcement of the result had caused unnecessary anxiety among its supporters, the nation and the international community.

It said the delay was unjustified, adding it had a right to access such information upon demand and request.

In his heads of argument, Mr Chikumbirike argued that it would be dangerous for the court to grant an order which might not be complied with.

"It would be dangerous to give an order that may not be complied with in view of outside exigencies they (ZEC) are not able to control. This is the reason why the Constitution, in its wisdom, provided that issues of election process are vested within the purview of the commission."

He said information on presidential election results was privileged which the commission had an entitlement to relate and release.

Mr Chikumbirike said ZEC was created by the coun- try’s Constitution and its integrity should not be compromised.

He warned that trying to interfere with the independence of ZEC would create problems in future.

Mr Chikumbirike argued that ZEC had absolute discretion in matters of elections and the position was not subject to appeal.

There was a heavy presence of riot police at the High Court before and after the court’s ruling.

Commenting on the High Court judgment, chairperson of the Zanu-PF media committee, Cde Patrick Chinamasa, said it was clear from the onset that the MDC-T application had no merit and only sought to cause confusion in the country.

"MDC-T application was doomed from the onset as they were trying to stampede ZEC to announce incorrect results in order to cause confusion," he said.

He said the application was also meant to cause a delay in the announcement of the results so as to portray the country as one in a crisis.

"Their application had no merit and was meant to cause confusion and portray Zimbabwe as being in a crisis. They wanted to precipitate a crisis as they do not want ZEC to correct results or announce results that have not been correctly arrived at."

The Ministry of Information and Publicity yesterday said the High Court judgment exonerates Zanu-PF from unfounded allegations made by MDC-T that it was interfering with the electoral process resulting in the delay in the announcement of presidential poll results by the ZEC.

In a statement last night, Deputy Minister of Information and Publicity Cde Bright Matonga said the judgment had completely vindicated Zanu-PF.

"This position, as found by the court, exculpates Zanu-PF from the allegations made by the applicants (MDC-T) in this matter which were to the effect that the delay as alleged by themselves (MDC-T) in the release of the presidential results were consistent and consequent upon interference by Zanu-PF.

"In short, it completely repudiates the interference hype that characterised the reports in the local and international media about the conduct of Zanu-PF," said Cde Matonga.

Asked for comment, MDC-T deputy president Thokozani Khupe said the judgment was meant to further delay the election results, adding that her party was disappointed by the court ruling.

She repeated her party’s claims that it had won the presidential election and insisted there was no need for a run-off.

Pohamba rejects Zim poll rigging claims

Bulawayo Bureau-Sapa

NAMIBIAN President Hifikepunye Pohamba has rejected allegations by MDC-T that President Mugabe is trying to rig the outcome of the March 29 elections.

President Pohamba said he was satisfied with the way the law was being upheld.

According to media reports from Namibia, Mr Pohamba, who was speaking shortly after arriving from an emergency Sadc summit in Zambia on the elections in Zimbabwe, said the course of the law was being followed in Zimbabwe.

He said people should wait for the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission to announce the results.

"There has been the impression that the Government of Zimbabwe is tampering with the result.

"It is not true. Neither the Government, the ruling party or the opposition had tampered with the outcome of the March 29 polls," said Mr Pohamba on his return to Windhoek on Sunday.

He said the only issue was the delay in announcing the presidential results, which the MDC-T had sought an order from the High Court to force ZEC to release the results.

The High Court yesterday dismissed the application with costs.

"Let’s now ask the electoral commission that, immediately after the pronouncement of the court, they should then announce the result in accordance with the Zimbabwean law on the election," he said.

Mr Pohamba also said Sadc leaders were satisfied with explanations on the arrest of several ZEC officials over allegations that they had deliberately underestimated Zanu-PF presidential candidate’s tally.

He said the arrests followed discrepancies in the vote count discovered by both Zanu-PF and the MDC and their requests for verification.

"So we have left Lusaka very much happy, convinced that the due course of law has been followed," he said. — Bulawayo Bureau-Sapa.

MDC-T warned against violence

Herald Reporters

Police yesterday warned MDC-T to desist from agitating for violence through their illegal stayaway set for today saying the force will deal severely with anyone who breaches the law.

The police urged the public to go about their usual business without fear adding their safety was guaranteed.

Police chief spokesperson Assistant Commissioner Wayne Bvudzijena said they had noted with concern the distribution of subversive fliers and pamphlets under the guise of the delay in the announcement of presidential poll results.

"These flyers have been thrown around the country. As everyone is aware the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission has clearly indicated its position and we find the call by MDC-T as agitating for violence," Asst Comm Bvudzijena said.

"As everyone is aware the past stayaways have been characterised by random destruction of property and threats to life."

Asst Comm Bvudzijena said the flyers threatened to disrupt commuter and private transport, attack those who open their businesses including vegetable markets while urging everyone to stay at home.

He said MDC-T had also activated their democratic resistance committees — their terror group — which carried a campaign of petrol bombings last year.

Asst Comm Bvudzijena called on the nation to ignore the stayaway.

"We remind the nation that through everyone’s effort the environment that has prevailed so far leading to the harmonised elections and in the post-election period has been one of peace and tranquillity.

"The call by the MDC-T faction is certainly aimed at disturbing this peace and will be resisted firmly by the law enforcement agents whose responsibility is to maintain law and order in any part of the country always."

He said police had since beefed up their deployments to deal firmly with any outlaws.

"The National Reaction Force has been activated (with the) beefing up police officers who were deployed before the harmonised elections to protect law-abiding citizens who would like to go about their lawful activities," he said.

Asst Comm Bvudzijena said some MDC-T officials are allegedly terrorising resettled farmers at Uhuru and Chigwell farms in Chegutu and Kadoma in Mashonaland West province.

The officials are reportedly moving in two vehicles inscribed
"Mashonaland West" and allegedly assaulted some resettled farmers on Sunday.

The MDC-T’s call for the stayaway was seen as a knee-jerk reaction to a High Court judgment dismissing its petition to compel the ZEC to release the presidential election results.

Addressing journalists in the capital yesterday, party deputy president Thokozani Khupe said their national executive had resolved to stage a stayaway to press for the release of the election results.

ZEC has since called for a recount of election results in the presidential and House of Assembly constituencies saying it has reasonable grounds to suspect that the counting process had been tampered with in a manner that could have affected the results.

"The national executive has therefore resolved to stage a mass stayaway or a stay-in. What we want from ZEC is for it to announce the election results.

"We hope every Zimbabwean will take heed of the call for a stayaway," said Khupe, who is acting president in the absence of Morgan Tsvangirai who is in South Africa for an undisclosed mission.

"Stay-in is for every Zimbabwean concerned about the delay in announcing the results."

She denied media reports that Tsvangirai had fled the country to seek political asylum.

"That’s not true, the president (Tsvangirai) is in South Africa. He has not sought asylum, he will be back in two days’ time," she said.

In Glen View 1, Zanu-PF and MDC-T supporters clashed yesterday while the opposition supporters were distributing flyers urging people to stay away from work. The incident occurred at around 2pm.

According to eyewitnesses, five MDC-T supporters provoked Zanu-PF supporters at Glen View 1 Shopping Centre, triggering the clash. One person was injured.

When The Herald visited the scene, the groups had dispersed.

Police said the injured person was still to make a report by late evening yesterday.

Asst Comm Bvudzijena said despite this isolated incident, the post-election period had remained largely peaceful and calm.

He dismissed reports that a murder case reported in Hurungwe was politically motivated.

Mwanawasa erred: Mnangagwa

By Tandayi Motsi

ZAMBIAN President and Sadc chairperson Mr Levy Mwanawasa convened the just-ended Sadc extraordinary summit in Lusaka without following laid-down procedures since there was no prior consultation with member-states as per tradition.

Briefing journalists in Harare yesterday, head of the Zimbabwean delegation Cde Emmerson Mnangagwa, who is also the Minister of Rural Housing and Social Amenities, said the meeting took member states by surprise as no prior consultations were undertaken by the Sadc chairperson.

Cde Mnangagwa said the letters of invitation to the summit were issued last Thursday, two days after the meeting had been announced in the Western media that included BBC, Sky News and CNN.

"This took member-states by surprise since there had been no prior consultations undertaken by the Sadc chairperson as is the tradition.

"We expressed our deepest concern over such practices. It is in this context that His Excellency, the President, Cde R.G. Mugabe, constituted a delegation to attend and represent him at the summit," he said.

Apart from Cde Mnangagwa, the Zimbabwean delegation comprised Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Cde Patrick Chinamasa and his Foreign Affairs counterpart Cde Simbarashe Mumbengegwi.

Also in attendance was Secretary for Foreign Affairs Ambassador Joey Bimha.

Cde Mnangagwa said the Zimbabwean delegation objected in the strongest terms to the inclusion on the summit agenda of the address by opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai and independent presidential candidate Simba Makoni.

The delegation argued that the inclusion of the two on the agenda was tantamount to elevating opposition politicians to the status of heads of state and government.

"The Zimbabwean delegation went on to draw the summit’s attention to the fact that the proposal by the Sadc chair had no precedent in the whole history of Sadc as no opposition politicians had ever been allowed to address the summit.

"Such a step, if allowed, would create a dangerous precedent," Cde Mnangagwa said.

However, Tsvangirai and Makoni managed to have some informal consultations with some Sadc leaders outside the summit room.

Cde Mnangagwa said after the Zimbabwean delegation had presented its case, the summit recognised and accepted that the electoral process currently in Zimbabwe was in accordance with the laws of the country and should, therefore, run its course.

"In conclusion, it was agreed that there was neither a stalemate nor an impasse in Zimbabwe," he said.

In a communiqué released after the summit, Sadc commended the Government for conducting the harmonised March 29 elections in a peaceful environment while Zimbabweans were also lauded for the peaceful and orderly manner in which they conducted themselves before, during and after the polls.

The summit urged the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission to expeditiously verify and release results of the presidential poll.

It also urged the contesting parties to accept the results when they are finally announced.

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