Mas­sive drop in poll pe­ti­tions

The Sunday Mail (Zimbabwe) - - FRONT PAGE - Sharon Mun­jen­jema

THE num­ber of chal­lenges against Na­tional Assem­bly and lo­cal author­ity poll out­comes brought to Elec­toral Courts fell sig­nif­i­cantly this year as com­pared to 2013.

In all, 28 pe­ti­tions were filed af­ter the July 30, 2018 elections com­pared to 110 in 2013.

Po­lit­i­cal com­men­ta­tors say the sta­tis­tics vin­di­cate the pro­fes­sional man­ner in which the polls were con­ducted and put paid to al­le­ga­tions that there were a lot of ir­reg­u­lar­i­ties dur­ing the har­monised elections as claimed by the op­po­si­tion MDC Al­liance.

Of the 28 pe­ti­tions that have been filed, 19 are chal­lenges to Na­tional Assem­bly re­sults, while only nine chal­lenge lo­cal author­ity out­comes.

In an in­ter­view last week, High Court Regis­trar Mrs Faith Mushure said the 2013 elections were more dis­puted than this year’s.

“The last elec­tion was more dis­puted than this year’s elec­tion. 110 pe­ti­tions were filed in 2013 and this year, they are not more than 30.”

Some of the con­stituen­cies with con­tested re­sults are Chegutu West, where Mr Gift Kon­jana of MDC Al­liance is chal­leng­ing Cde Dex­ter Nduna’s vic­tory on a Zanu-PF ticket.

◆ In Goromonzi West con­stituency, Zanu-PF’s Cde En­ergy Mu­todi’s win is be­ing dis­puted by Mr Tau­rai Nham­buro and Luke Tam­borinyoka – both of the MDC Al­liance.

MDC Al­liance’s Mr Blessing Che­bundo is chal­leng­ing re­sults for Kwekwe Cen­tral, which was won by NPF’s Mr Masango Matam­banadzo.

Dr Philip Chiyangwa’s vic­tory in Zvimba South con­stituency for Zanu-PF is be­ing con­tested by MDC Al­liance’s Nkosi­lathi Nya­madzawo.

Mrs Mushure said elec­tion pe­ti­tions are treated as ur­gent mat­ters, and de­ter­mi­na­tions would be made within six months.

“For the 2018 elec­tion, we are not yet out of time. Ev­ery elec­tion pe­ti­tion brought to the High Court shall be de­ter­mined within six months from the date of pre­sen­ta­tion in terms of Sec­tion 182(1) of the Elec­toral Act.

“When a per­son is aggrieved by the de­ci­sion of the Elec­toral Court on a ques­tion of law, in terms of Sec­tion 172(2) of the Elec­toral Act, they can ap­peal to the Supreme Court and that ap­peal should be de­ter­mined within three months,” she ex­plained.

Where the Elec­toral Court’s de­ci­sion is on a ques­tion of fact, the de­ci­sion is fi­nal and can­not be ap­pealed, said Mrs Mushure.

There are two sce­nar­ios where fil­ing of an elec­tion pe­ti­tion can be blocked by the courts, said Mrs Mushure.

“So, gen­er­ally, when some­one comes to the High Court, the regis­trar has to check that the pe­ti­tion is in the proper form, which is a court ap­pli­ca­tion, and if it is within the stip­u­lated time­line. I can re­ject it if does not meet those stan­dards,” she said.

Mrs Mushure said when an elec­tion pe­ti­tion is pre­sented to the courts, the ap­pli­cant is obliged to pay se­cu­rity costs within seven days.

Be­fore se­cu­rity costs are paid, the case can­not come be­fore judges.

The elec­toral courts, Mrs Mushure said, were well-equipped to ad­e­quately han­dle elec­tion-re­lated cases within stip­u­lated time­lines.

“We have a registry which we have put up with elec­toral court records and ev­ery­thing is in place, and we have put sea­soned peo­ple in those reg­istries to make sure those seek­ing to pe­ti­tion re­ceive the ad­e­quate and quick at­ten­tion they re­quire,” she said.

Po­lit­i­cal an­a­lyst Mr El­ton Ziki said the drop in can­di­dates who were aggrieved by this year’s polls showed the smooth way in which the elections were con­ducted.

“There have been some pos­i­tive change that have taken place in (the Zim­babwe Elec­toral Com­mis­sion) with re­gards to mak­ing the pro­cesses in­clu­sive. ZEC has had in­ter­faces with all stake­hold­ers, po­lit­i­cal par­ties, civil so­ci­ety and faith­based or­gan­i­sa­tions.

“It has even ac­tively cam­paigned for a non-vi­o­lent elec­tion. It’s a tes­ti­mony that the elec­tion was not only free and fair, but cred­i­ble,” he said.

Lo­cal, re­gional and in­ter­na­tional ob­servers signed off the July 30 elections as peace­ful, free, fair and cred­i­ble.

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