High Court Judge President, Justice George Chiweshe today handed down reasons for his granting of a court reprieve allowing President Robert Mugabe from complying with a High Court Order compelling him to proclaim dates for by-elections in three constituencies of Matabeleland.
Justice Chiweshe, who granted Mugabe the reprieve on Friday, had indicated that he would hand down reasons for his judgement today.
Mugabe was ordered by the High Court to announce by-election dates in the three constituencies of Nkayi South, Bulilima East and Lupane East by March 31.
This followed an application by three former MDC legislators, Abednico Bhebhe, Njabuliso Mguni and Norman Mpofu who were dismissed from their party in 2009.
However, Mugabe filed two urgent chamber applications seeking an extension of the 31 March deadline to 29 June this year, when harmonised elections will be held saying the move made political and economic sense.
The deputy Attorney General, Advocate Prince Machaya, who stood for Mugabe Mugabe argued that it was no longer feasible to call for by-elections in the three Matabeleland constituencies as general elections were around the corner with Parliament set to be dissolved on 29 June.
Lawyer for the three former legislators, Advocate Thabani Mpofu had submitted in court that the lifespan of Parliament can be extended to 29 October hence the by-elections can be held before that period.
Justice Chiweshe said that if Parliament can be extended to 29 October, then it will be feasible for the by-elections to be held. He said that if the lifespan of Parliament cannot extend beyond 29 June, then the by elections will no longer be feasible.
In his ruling, Justice Chiweshe concurred with submissions from Advocate Machaya that the lifespan of Parliament could not be extended beyond 29 June this year.
“It is common cause that applicant (Mugabe) was sworn in as President on 29 June 2009.The life of the present Parliament must be deemed to run from that date, for a period of five years. Calculated from that date, there is no doubt whatsoever that the life of the present Parliament shall end on 29 June 2013.
“It is however permissible to extend the life of Parliament beyond that date on the grounds provided under s 63 (5) and (6) of the Constitution. These sections allow for that extension only if the country is at war or under a declared state of public emergency. No such situation presently obtains in the country. I am convinced therefore that the life of the present Parliament will end operation of law on 29 June 2013,” read part of the judgement.
Justice Chiweshe, further stated that allowing for by-elections in the three Matabeleland constituencies will mean holding elections in all the vacant seats across the country and this would mean enormous costs or the government.
“The court is informed that apart from the three House of Assembly constituencies under consideration there are further vacancies in other constituencies, namely 16 in the House of Assembly, 12 in the Senate and 164 council wards. Should this application fail, the country would need to hold by-elections to fill these vacancies.
“Again, the winners of the seats will be in their seats for a very short period of time. The scale and extent of these by-elections suggests that enormous resources would need to be mobilised,” read the judgement.Tweet