Voting not a fundamental right: Supreme Court judges Thur
24 February 2005 HARARE - Voting is not a fundamental right, Chief
Justice Godfrey Chidyausiku and another Supreme Court judge said yesterday,
while hearing an application by Zimbabweans living abroad who want to be
allowed to vote in next month's election.
Justice Luke Malaba, who were hearing the matter with three other judges,
insisted that voting could not be regarded as a fundamental right that the
court had to protect even though it was enshrined in Zimbabwe's
The court reserved judgment in the matter in which a
group of seven Zimbabweans living in Britain want the court to order the
government to set up a mechanism to enable them to vote in the March 31
election and any polls thereafter.
But lawyer Happias Zhou had
a tough time yesterday trying to convince the two senior judges that voting
should be considered a fundamental and basic right that the court must
Zhou told the court that the government's refusal to
permit his clients to vote infringed their rights and freedoms of
expression, choice, association and movement all guaranteed by the country's
He said: "Voting is an expression of opinion and
where one is hindered on the right to vote, then their right of expression
and association is also hindered. Interference with applicants' rights is
not justifiable in a democratic society."
But Malaba told Zhou:
"The right to vote is not a fundamental right, neither is it under common
law. It is constitutional yes, but not a fundamental right. Even if we were
to agree that voting is a freedom of expression, does it say that this
freedom should be enjoyed wherever one is?"
concurred saying that Zhou should instead have challenged provisions of the
Electoral Act that were being used to bar his clients from participating in
the forthcoming poll than presenting the case as one where the applicants'
fundamental rights had been breached.
The government has said it
will not allow an estimated three million Zimbabweans or about a quarter of
the country's total population living abroad to vote because doing so would
prejudice the ruling ZANU PF party whose leaders cannot visit Western
countries to campaign for support among the exiled Zimbabweans living
President Robert Mugabe and his top officials are banned
from European Union countries, United States, Switzerland, New Zealand,
Canada and Australia because of their poor human rights record and failure
to embrace democracy.
The government also says it is too late
to set up a mechanism to allow the exiled voters to vote in the March 31
poll. - ZimOnline
Jailed MP says continued imprisonment illegal Thur 24
HARARE - Jailed opposition Movement for Democratic
Change (MDC) parliamentarian Roy Bennett this week appealed to the High
Court to declare his continued imprisonment illegal and order his immediate
In another application also filed this week to the
Electoral Court, Bennett wants the court to overturn a decision by the
nomination court to bar him from standing as a candidate in his Chimanimani
constituency in next month's election.
Harare lawyer Beatrice
Mtetwa, who is representing Bennett yesterday told ZimOnline that she was
pushing for the High Court to hear his appeal as an urgent
In his affidavit, Bennett argues that although Parliament
had committed him to an effective 12 months in jail, the sentence
automatically expires at the expiry of the life of the Fifth Parliament
according to the Parliamentary Immunities and Privileges Act.
President Robert Mugabe has ordered the Fifth Parliament to dissolve on
March 30 to pave way for a new House to be elected on March 31.
Bennett further argues that because his sentence can only be up to March 30
or a total of about 153 days from the date he was committed to jail last
October, he should therefore have been released earlier this month because
of good behavior.
Under the Prisons Act, inmates who behave well
are entitled to a remission of one third of their sentence which Bennett
says means he should have been released on February 7 had a third of his
153-day sentence been knocked off as is required by law.
legislator wrote in his affidavit: "Section 32 (2) of the Parliamentary and
Immunities Privileges Act make it clear that the committal to prison can
only be during the current term of Parliament which leaves no doubt that the
sentence imposed on me can only remain valid up to 30 March.
means that the sentence imposed on me can only be a maximum of up to 30
March, which translates to just under 5 months or 153 days.
terms of the Prisons Act, a prisoner like myself who has earned by
satisfactory industry and good behavior a clean record, is entitled to a
remission of the sentence by one third. According to my calculations, I
ought to have been released on 7 February."
white legislator for a rural constituency, Bennett was put in jail without
going to court after ruling ZANU PF party parliamentarians used their
superiority in numbers to vote for the legislator to be imprisoned for
violently shoving Justice inister Patrick Chinamasa during
An earlier appeal by Bennett against his imprisonment is
still pending at the courts.
In the other matter before the
Electoral Court, Bennett argues that the nomination officers' decision to
bar him from standing was wrong and could not be justified under Zimbabwe's
electoral laws. - ZimOnline
Customs Seizes Shipment Of Elephant Body Parts Officials Find 22
Feet, 8 Tusks, Entire Hide In Cargo
POSTED: 4:15 pm PST February 23,
2005 UPDATED: 4:43 pm PST February 23, 2005
AMSTERDAM, Netherlands --
Dutch customs police have seized a shipment of African elephant body parts,
including 22 feet, eight tusks, eight ears, three tails, a skull and an
entire hide, officials said Wednesday.
The cargo, originating in Zimbabwe
and bound for Germany, was halted at Schiphol airport in October without
proper licenses. The find was announced this week following an investigation
and will be permanently confiscated, spokeswoman Anita Douven
African elephants are an endangered species and can only be shipped
with special licenses, but activists noted that illegal trade in animal
parts is a huge industry.
"This is unusual -- that there would be
such a large find -- but trade in ivory is sadly not at all rare," Rosa Hill
of the International Fund for Animal Welfare said.
The parts may have
been intended for a collector who planned to use them as part of an exhibit,
she said. Elephant feet also are used to make footstools as a "gruesome
collectible" and elephant skin purses are sold at open air markets in London
and other cities, she said.
The parts were intended for buyers in Spain,
Portugal and the Czech Republic, police said. No arrests have been made,
though German authorities are still investigating.
disgusting," Douven said. "We hope the publicity will discourage people from
doing this. At least the dealers have lost their money."
Pressure group holds all-female demo against poll Thur 24
HARARE - Zimbabwe's National Constitutional Assembly
(NCA) group yesterday staged an all-female demonstration in Harare against
the holding of a general election in the country on March 31.
The NCA brings together churches, opposition parties, women's rights groups,
human rights organisations, and the student and labour movements. The
coalition campaigns for a new and democratic constitution for the country
and wants next month's parliamentary poll rescheduled until a new
constitution is written.
The group has protested before against
the March poll and yesterday about 300 female coalition members marched
through the capital waving placards and chanting slogans denouncing plans to
hold an election when the constitutional framework precludes a fair and
NCA gender committee chairwoman Thabita
Khumalo, who led yesterday's protest, said: "We feel that there is a lot of
work that needs to be done if we are really serious about having a fair
election. We have made this message clear (through the protest) today and we
shall continue doing so."
There were no arrests during the protest
after the police only arrived after the women had already dispersed. -
Mugabe govt says EU has hostile agenda against
February 23, 2005, 23:00
President Robert Mugabe's
government today slammed the European Union for extending sanctions on
Zimbabwe for a year, saying the EU had a hostile agenda against the state.
EU foreign ministers meeting in Brussels extended the sanctions to February
20, 2006, on Monday, but said they would review the decision in the light of
parliamentary elections due in Zimbabwe on March 31.
have backed a charge by the main opposition Movement for Democratic Change's
(MDC) that Mugabe's ruling Zanu-PF rigged parliamentary elections in 2000
and a 2002 presidential poll, and accuse the government of widespread human
rights abuses. Harare denies the charges.
Today, Patrick Chinamasa, the
justice minister, said the EU had no justification for imposing sanctions in
the first place, saying they were based on "lies and propaganda against
Zimbabwe. Their decision to continue with the sanctions clearly bears no
relation to the reality on the ground. We are conducting our elections in
the most peaceful conditions. You have the feeling that the EU is harbouring
hostile intentions against our country," Chinamasa said in remarks broadcast
on state television.
The sanctions include a ban on the sale, supply or
transfer of arms to Zimbabwe, on any assistance concerning military
activities, and on the supply of any equipment capable of being used for
internal repression. The EU also included a visa ban and an asset freeze on
people who have committed human rights violations, and violations of freedom
of speech and assembly in Zimbabwe.
Mugabe said at the weekend he
wanted the parliamentary elections to be a peaceful victory that would be a
lesson for his critics at home and abroad. The veteran leader, in power
since independence from Britain in 1980, said he hoped Zanu(PF) would win a
massive victory over the MDC. Mugabe says the MDC is a puppet used by
Britain against his government over its seizure of white-owned farms in
Zimbabwe for redistribution among landless blacks. - Reuters
Arms deal raises fears of coup if Mugabe loses
vote By Basildon Peta in Johannesburg 24 February 2005
has received a large consignment of arms from China and recalled all
reservists ahead of a general election on 31 March, prompting fears that the
army is planning to stage a coup in the event of a poll defeat for President
The shipment, moved in secret via the port of Beira in
Mozambique, includes heavy assault rifles, military vehicles called
Dongfengs, riot equipment and teargas. Defence sources said the materiel
would ensure the army is well equipped in case Mr Mugabe's Zanu-PF party
loses the ballot and needs military help to hold on to power.
before Zimbabwe's last presidential election in 2002, the commander of the
defence forces, Constantine Chiwengwa, and his predecessor, Vitalis
Zvinavashe, warned that the army would stage a coup if Mr Mugabe were voted
out of power in favour of his main opponent, Morgan Tsvangirai.
Chiwenga and other senior generals have since repeated these warnings,
saying they could never defer to anyone who did not fight in the 1970s
independence war from Britain - a reference to Mr Tsvangirai. But the army's
ability to take power and keep order has been severely curtailed by a United
States and European Union arms embargo imposed in 2002 to protest at the
regime's use of the army to crush dissent. The embargo has curbed Mr
Mugabe's ability to replenish his armoury, already depleted by a deployment
in the Democratic Republic of the Congo's civil war. Hence his need to turn
to Asia and the Middle East for supplies.
Sources say that Mr Mugabe
is also trying to entice the Chinese with mining and farming concessions in
exchange for more arms. Zimbabwe has the world's second-largest reserves of
platinum. Until recently it was the third-largest exporter of gold on the
continent. However, many established mining companies have scaled down
operations or closed because of an uneconomic, government-imposed exchange
Army officials and the Defence Minister, Sydney Sekeramayi, have
declined to comment on the arms purchase. Although Mr Mugabe has beaten the
opposition into submission over the years and is likely to win the
elections, sources say he is not taking any chances. Mr Mugabe's own post is
not up for election until 2008, but he would have to resign were he to lose
Meanwhile, Zimbabwe's top court heard a bid
yesterday by a group of citizens abroad seeking to vote, a move the
government fears could lead to more ballots for the opposition. Only
citizens outside their home constituencies on official national duty can
cast postal votes - a requirement which critics say has disenfranchised more
than three million Zimbabweans living abroad. A lawyer for a group living in
Britain told the Supreme Court that, by denying those abroad the right to
vote, Mr Mugabe's government was denying citizens a fundamental
Despite impressive advances made against
malaria in Zimbabwe during the mid and late 1990s, UNICEF today warned that
the country's children are once more under threat from the
At the same time, the UN Children's Fund
welcomed a critical donation of US$3million from the UK's Department for
International Development (DFID). The funds will provide for 400,000
insecticide treated nets (ITNs) for children under five years and pregnant
Half of all Zimbabweans live in malarial areas, and
malaria is the second highest killer of children in Zimbabwe. And yet only
seven percent of children (under five years) sleep under treated nets. As
such, the DFID funds will allow for a life-saving expansion of long lasting
insecticide treated nets.
"These funds from DFID come at
a crucial time for Zimbabwean children," said UNICEF's Representative in
Zimbabwe, Dr Festo Kavishe. "If we are to counter rising malaria and still
reach globally accepted targets of 60% ITN coverage among children and
pregnant women (by 2005), then this is exactly the sort of large scale
On behalf of the children and pregnant women
of Zimbabwe, I would like to thank DFID for this support"
In the past five years in Zimbabwe, increased resistance of malaria
parasites to drugs has been coupled with the significant movement of people
(either due to resettlement or economic emigration).
resulted in people relocating from non-endemic to malaria endemic areas.
Because these people have no built-in immunity to malaria, epidemics are
occurring with increasing frequency and fatalities, especially amongst
children and pregnant women.
In response UNICEF will use the
DFID funds to massively boost coverage of treated nets, while enhancing
education and awareness about preventing malaria.
"Malaria not only kills, it also damages productivity and halts
development," said the head of DFID in Zimbabwe, John
"A malaria-stricken family spends an average of over
one quarter of its income on treatment. Thus malaria has far reaching
effects on health and economic productivity.
UNICEF we therefore hope to save lives and assist
Vector control and spraying initiatives are
well established in Zimbabwe, however, due to the high cost of chemicals,
limited availability of resources and Zimbabwe's challenges in importing
supplies (which are paid with foreign currency), coverage is
"There is no single way of preventing malaria,"
said UNICEF's Dr Kavishe. "Increasingly malaria parasites are becoming
resistant to existing drugs such as chloroquine, and an effective vaccine is
considered years away.
The answer is prevention, or more
specifically, insecticide treated nets. The perennial question is: Who pays?
Now DFID have provided a critical answer to that."
Will the Opposition's Campaign Trip Up on Purse
BULAWAYO, Feb 23 (IPS) - The topic of
campaign finance is rarely far from the minds of politicians or pundits in
the run-up to elections - and Zimbabwe is no exception to this rule. With
the country in the midst of a political and economic crisis, it may even be
a hotter topic of discussion here than elsewhere.
elections are scheduled to take place in Zimbabwe in six weeks
The previous two polls, parliamentary and presidential
elections held in 2000 and 2002 respectively, were marred by violence that
was mostly directed against the opposition. Zimbabwe's ruling ZANU-PF party
was also accused of monopolizing the state media and rigging the voters'
roll to ensure victory over its main competitor - the Movement for
Democratic Change (MDC).
After initially declaring that it would boycott
the upcoming vote, the MDC reversed its position earlier this
Concerns about a repeat of electoral violence aside, the party now
faces the challenge of mounting a campaign at a time when the world's
highest inflation rate and widespread unemployment are said to have dealt a
blow to MDC finances - and even as the financial situation in ZANU-PF is
probably somewhat different.
MDC spokesman Paul Themba Nyathi says
local donations have dwindled under the weight of these economic
But, "The position has always been that those in the state
have access to resources they can abuse which the opposition, no matter how
much you can raise from your friends, cannot match," adds political analyst
After winning almost half of the contested seats in
the last parliamentary election, the MDC does qualify for state funding.
However, party officials say this money does not go very
According to Secretary-General Wlshman Ncube, about 55,000 U.S.
dollars were allocated to the MDC last year - while the party's monthly
salary bill alone came to about 18,000 U.S. dollars.
In a move that
surprised many, government announced that it would also disburse just over
560,000 U.S. dollars to the MDC this year (and almost 600,000 U.S. dollars
to ZANU-PF) as part of the annual party grant.
Eddie Cross, the MDC's
economic adviser, welcomes this development. But, he adds, "To deploy and
help our election agents to all the thousands of polling stations will cost
us more than the total grant from the state - in one day."
state radio and television, the only broadcasters permitted in Zimbabwe,
will cost parties 700 U.S. dollars a minute for prime time slots. There has
also been a 20-fold increase in the deposit payable by candidates in each of
the 120 parliamentary constituencies - and a 1,000 percent rise in the cost
of the voters' register. It now costs an astonishing 1,300 U.S. dollars for
a copy of the register.
For its part, government accuses the MDC of
getting money from British Prime Minister Tony Blair and American President
George Bush. These two leaders became the principal targets of Harare's ire
after they condemned Zimbabwe's controversial land reform programme,
allegedly instituted to correct racial imbalances in land ownership, and
human rights abuse in the country.
Claims that the opposition group is
benefiting from foreign funding may grow louder with the launch of an appeal
this month by self-described "concerned individuals" who say they are
seeking to raise funds, in- and outside Zimbabwe, for what they term
"support of the democratic process".
Distributed via a selective mailing
list, the appeal gives an account number in neighbouring South Africa where
people outside Zimbabwe can deposit donations. For those in Zimbabwe, the
correspondence gives a mailing address where cheques and money orders are to
be sent in the name of ZIMFUND.
Aside from money, the organisers of this
appeal are also asking for 2,400 vehicles and drivers to be made available
for election day, to transport monitors to polling stations amongst other
"US$30 will fill the tank of a vehicle; a gift of R50 000 (50,000
South African rand, about 8,700 U.S. dollars) will fund the campaign in a
single constituency," the appeal notes.
Fiery opposition politician
Margaret Dongo, founder of the Zimbabwe Union of Democrats, alleges that
both ZANU-PF and the MDC are tapping into foreign funds.
electoral development, four journalists who work for foreign news
organisations have fled Zimbabwe in recent days, this after the secret
police reportedly accused them of spying and producing reports that
slandered the state.
This incident appears to fly in the face of
electoral guidelines adopted by the Southern African Development Community
during a summit held in Mauritius, in August 2004: under these rules, member
states are obliged to ensure press freedom, to provide an environment
conducive for a fair campaign. (END/2005)