By Gift Phiri
HARARE – President Robert Mugabe yesterday lost a landmark case in the Supreme Court when the Court of Appeal threw out his appeal against fresh elections. A full bench refused to quash a High Court ruling directing Mugabe to call by-elections in three Matabeleland constituencies, dismissing his appeal as without merit.
Mugabe’s Supreme Court setback comes days after he lost another landmark case in the High Court against his coalition partner Morgan Tsvangirai where Judge President George Chiweshe ruled that the President can be sued.
Yesterday’s decision by the highest court in the land means Mugabe must publish in the Government Gazette, a notice for by-elections in three Matabeleland constituencies, a move the veteran ruler has been resisting.
However, it is likely that Mugabe will simply ignore the court ruling; a fact alluded to by Chief Justice Godfrey Chidyausiku during the hearing. Mugabe’s lawyer had argued Bulawayo High Court judge Nicholas Ndou had misdirected himself in his October 2011 ruling directing Mugabe to call for elections within 14 days.
The lawyer said even if government wanted to comply with the court order, it had no money to bankroll the by-elections.
The Court of Appeal, led by Chidyausiku and also comprising judges of appeal Vernanda Ziyambi, Paddington Garwe, Anne-Mary Gowora and Yunus Omerjee handed down the operative part of a unanimous judgment of dismissing Mugabe’s civil appeal.
Without outlining why it had dismissed Mugabe’s bid, the Supreme Court bench said: “Whereupon, after reading documents filed of record and hearing counsel, and thereafter, that is to say, Thursday the 12th day of July 2012, it is ordered that the appeal is dismissed with costs.”
The ruling orders Mugabe to ensure elections are held by August 30 this year.
“The respondent (the President of the Republic of Zimbabwe) is hereby ordered to publish in the gazette a notice ordering new elections to fill the vacancies as soon as possible as but by no later than August 30, 2012,” the ruling says.
“There will be no order as to costs.”
Mugabe, whose Zanu PF party is suffering the disintegrating effect of factionalism linked to his succession, has repeatedly stated his desire to hold elections this year. He has even told regional Sadc leaders mediating in Zimbabwe’s long-drawn political crisis that he expects no less.
Yet the 88-year-old was resisting demands by three officials from coalition partner MDC for him to call elections without delay.
Former MPs Abednico Bhebhe, Njabuliso Mguni and Norman Mpofu were forced to approach the courts after Mugabe refused to call for elections in parliamentary constituencies left vacant by death and dismissals.
The three were fired as MPs by the Welshman Ncube-led MDC on accusations of siding with Tsvangirai’s larger MDC party. They won at the High Court but Mugabe chose to fight on in the Supreme Court.
However, Mugabe suffered another defeat yesterday when the Supreme Court upheld the October 2011 High Court ruling ordering him to set dates for by-elections within two weeks. The judgment’s ripple effect is likely to unsettle Mugabe, as it means calling for elections in close to 30 other constituencies that have also fallen vacant.
Yet, the same ruling could have been what Mugabe has been praying for since it gave him the chance to prove his election readiness. Daily News
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