via Poll petitions take centre stage | The Herald December 31, 2013 by Daniel Nemukuyu
Election-RELATED cases and high-profile divorce matters dominated the 2013 legal year for the High, Supreme and Constitutional courts. It was always given that cases would flood the Electoral Court after the harmonised elections on July 31, and true to that expectation that court had to deal with various petitions from losers, some of which are still pending.
The year was turned into one of legal battles as politicians thronged the courts with contestations related to how the referendum should be conducted, when and how harmonised elections should be held, and the manner in which special ballots should be handled.
The National Constitutional Assembly, led by Professor Lovemore Madhuku, filed an urgent chamber application to extend the referendum date from the gazetted March 16 by at least two months to allow the nation to “properly analyse, study and appreciate the draft Constitution”.
The application hit a snag and the process went ahead.
A Zaka-registered voter, Mr Jealousy Mawarire, rose to the limelight when he filed a constitutional application seeking an order for elections to be held before August at a time MDC-T was pushing for polls to be pushed to around October 2013.
Mr Mawarire, the director of the Centre for Elections and Democracy in Southern Africa, wanted the court to compel President Mugabe to set the election date upon expiry of the Seventh Parliament’s life on June 29. The court settled for a July 31 deadline to give ample time for preparations.
Mr Mawarire’s matter was the first judgment to be handed down by the nine-judge Constitutional Court, which was established by the new Constitution.
The old Constitution required five Supreme Court judges to sit as a Constitutional Court, but in terms of the new one, the number of judges was increased to nine.
MDC-T filed another application challenging the manner in which the special ballot system was conducted on July 14 and 15.
They argued there was chaos at polling stations and several members of the uniformed service failed to cast ballots.
But on July 30, the party filed a notice of withdrawal and dropped the application allowing the July 31 harmonised poll to proceed without any hindrances.
After the elections, MDC-T leader Mr Morgan Tsvangirai filed a petition at the Constitutional Court seeking nullification of the Presidential poll results. He also sought a fresh election within 60 days of the announcement of the poll result.
That followed the declaration of President Mugabe as duly elected leader of Zimbabwe after winning 61,09 percent of the Presidential votes, with Mr Tsvangirai trailing at 33,94 percent and the other three contestants sharing 4,97 percent.
Mr Tsvangirai alleged vote rigging, electoral bribery, abuse of the special voting system, intimidation of voters and misuse of voter registration slips among other concerns.
He attempted to withdraw the petition after failing to gather enough evidence, but it was too late and the court went on to dismiss it, ruling that the election was free, fair and credible and a true reflection of the will of the people of Zimbabwe.
After that, the desperate MDC-T mounted 95 petitions at the Electoral Court in which it contested outcomes in National Assembly constituencies it lost to Zanu-PF.
At the Electoral Court in Harare, 89 petitions were filed while six were filed at the same court in Bulawayo.
The petitions were first affected by poor funding as the party only managed to pay security for costs of US$10 000 each for 39 of them, leaving out 56.
After that, at least 30 of the petitions were either withdrawn or dismissed for failure to comply with the rules of the court as well as sections of the Electoral Act, leaving less than 10 petitions pending.
The Constitutional and Supreme courts in September moved from the Supreme Court building along Kwame Nkrumah Avenue to Mashonganyika Building in Samora Machel Avenue in Harare.
The relocation, according to the Chief Registrar of the Constitutional Court, Mr Walter Chi-kwana, was part of the judiciary’s drive to reduce backlogs as the Supreme Court of Appeal will now be sitting as two courts from both the Supreme Court Building and Mashonganyika Building.
The old Supreme Court building had become too small to accommodate the two courts as the number of judges had increased following the enactment of the new Constitution.
High-profile divorce cases also had the share of centre stage, with prominent figures like businessman Mr Philip Chiyangwa, Zanu-PF chairman Cde Simon Khaya Moyo and Youth, Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment Minister Francis Nhema featuring high on the list.
In January, the High Court dissolved the 20-year marriage between Minister Nhema and the daughter of late Vice President Joshua Nkomo, Ms Louise Sehlule Nkomo.
Justice Hlekani Mwayera granted the order after the parties filed a consent document on how to share their property.
Cde Khaya Moyo and his ex-wife, Ms Sibonokuhle Getrude Ngwenya, in February ended their 33-year marriage at the High Court after reaching a settlement.
Mr Chiyangwa’s wife of 25 years, Mrs Elizabeth Chiyangwa, in November filed divorce summons at the High Court claiming 85 percent of the couple’s wealth. She also wants US$83 000 per month for 120 months as maintenance after the termination of their marriage.
Mrs Chiyangwa said her husband was associating with several other women and their marriage had irretrievably broken down.