High Court Rescues Mwonzora From Heavy Embarrassment
28 June 2023
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The MDC-T on Tuesday lost its bid to force the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) to register 87 of its aspiring MPs who were rejected by the nomination court on June 21 after failing to pay candidate fees.

Justice Webster Chinamhora of the Harare High Court, sitting as an Electoral Court, said he had no jurisdiction to deal with the matter.

“Having upheld the argument (by ZEC) of lack of jurisdiction, I will not address the other points. I will strike the matter off the roll with no order as to costs,” the judge said after the MDC-T had filed an urgent application.

ZEC lawyer Tawanda Kanengoni said the procedure to be followed was that candidates dissatisfied with decisions of the nomination officer file an appeal to the Electoral Court within four days, and not do so as a party, or as an urgent chamber application.

“The application cannot be entertained by this court. The application is made by the MDC-T. It’s not made by a candidate. The party has no right to challenge the nomination of candidates. All 87 of these persons that are mentioned have concurrently filed an appeal before this court and it is pending. One would then wonder why the applicants who demonstrate full understanding would pursue the current application and ask this court to sit twice to determine the same issues,” Kanengoni argued.

The MDC-T, represented by Prof Lovemore Madhuku, had maintained that the matter was properly before the judge, arguing that “we know in terms of the Electoral Act that there are candidates and sponsoring parties.”

“Here you have a political party and the route that they have taken is properly provided for. The Electoral Court must deal with all matters. The right of appeal does not take away other rights of access to this court. Section 161 of the Electoral Act says that this court cannot try criminal cases. That exclusion must be the only exclusion that is allowed in this court. The political party can approach this court,” Madhuku vainly argued.

Nomination courts rejected 87 of the MDC-T’s candidates after the party tried a system of “centralised payment” where it wanted to pay ZEC for all its candidates in one transaction, instead of giving money to individual candidates in the same way that other parties did. Candidates for MP were required to pay US$1,000 or the equivalent in Zimbabwe dollars.

The party has not said how many candidates successfully filed papers to run for council or MP. Insiders said “about seven” successfully filed nomination papers in Matebeleland North.

Party spokesman Witness Dube told the Voice of America’s Studio 7 on Tuesday: “Our candidate nomination issue has not succeeded in court. We maintain a little bit of hope because there is another court process initiated, but we have to concede that our chances of rescuing the situation are diminishing.

“We disagree strongly with how ZEC has dealt with our matter. But with the benefit of hindsight, one must say that perhaps if our candidates had money on them, or means to pay as individuals on the day, we would not be having this problem. It’s an important lesson for our party and our leaders that matters like these must be dealt with in a much, much better way next time.”

Zimbabweans vote in genera elections on August 23. The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission said it intends to publish final list of candidates by June 30.