Zim politicians in litigation spree ahead of election

Zim politicians in litigation spree ahead of election

As the countdown to the much-awaited 23 August general election continues in Zimbabwe, a litigation mania seems to have gripped the election landscape, sending political players from across the board running in and out of the courts in a fashion which can be safely concluded to be only unique to this election.
From the beginning of the year, way before the announcement of the poll date by the country’s president Emerson Mnangagwa, lawsuits, counter suits, urgent applications, and appeals have been flying from all ends of the block as political rivals seek to outwit and neutralize each other through the courts.

It’s a new phenomenon that has been popularized in post-Mugabe Zimbabwe, which commentators have monikered “lawfare”. Previously, Zimbabwean politics had been relatively played away from the courtrooms, with the country’s erstwhile strongman, Robert Mugabe, choosing to fight and outfox his opponent by any other means necessary but law. In the few occasions where politicians approached the courts for redress, it had always been actors from the opposition divide trying their luck, hardly politicians from the ruling party.

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Here are some of the many election-related cases that have been filed before the courts so far:
The Fees Challenge
One of the most notable pre-election court applications was when the Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC), the biggest opposition outfit in Zimbabwe by support base, took the election management body (ZEC) to court over exorbitant candidate nomination fees which the later had gazetted. The highest fee for the highest office; the presidency, was pegged at a dizzy twenty thousand dollars (USD). Arguing the fees were militating against democratic principles and hindered the ordinary man and woman from participating in the country’s politics, the CCC prayed for a reversal of the same. However, the court ruled against the applicants, and thus the fees were upheld.

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The Tyson Bout
Following the successful nomination of self-exiled, former Mugabe ally and now presidential aspirant, Saviour “Tyson” Kasukuwere via proxy representation, one Lovedale Mangwana, lawyer, and ruling party activist, approached the courts seeking an order to ban Kasukuwere from contesting in the country’s presidential race. After a somewhat protracted hearing, ruling was eventually passed in favour of applicant. The ruling, being unfavorable to Kasukuwere, prompted his legal team to appeal to the Supreme court, automatically setting aside the High Court decision. However, the appeal was only a short reprieve for the embattled politician as the Supreme court was, again, to rule against him. Not giving in, his legal team and foot soldiers, at the time of writing, contemplated taking the matter to the highest court in the land; the Constitutional Court.

A Tale Of Twelve Seats
Following a chaotic nomination process which was held in under 8 hours at courthouses around the country, an obscure group of ruling party “activists” approached the Bulawayo High Court praying for the banning of twelve CCC parliamentary candidates from contesting in the election. Their argument: the CCC twelve had filed their papers some hours after the stipulated 4 PM deadline.

Despite the ZEC testifying in the corner of the CCC MP’s, the Bulawayo High Court judge, Bongani Ndhlovu, went on to deliver a shock judgement in favour of the applicants. The judgement, the first such in the history of the country, meant that all twelve seats were delivered to the ruling ZANU PF.
The judgement was met with wide criticism from the electorate, civil society, and the diplomatic community. In response, the CCC appealed against the ruling in an urgent application at the Supreme Court. Ruling was yet to be delivered at the time of writing.

Other contestants who have approached the courts with nomination court related grievances include Elisabeth Valerio of the UZA party, the only female presidential candidate in the race. Valerio was lucky to have the court rule in her favour. Her other counterpart, Linda Masarira of the LEAD party, wasn’t so lucky.

These court applications, in their numbers and fashions, have been the major highlight of the season, and can be an augury of what’s coming ahead: a heavily contested poll outcome.

Elias Muonde

Elias M Muonde is a Writer, Scriptwriter, film Director and Journalist based in Harare. His writing has been published in a handful of anthologies as well as in The Standard Newspaper, The NewsHawks, various international journals, blogs, and online platforms. He's also a Human Interest correspondent with My Afrika Magazine, but often happily encroaches to hard beats like politics and business. A film enthusiast, Muonde has worked on several film projects in different capacities: from production management to assistant directing. He also wrote over a hundred episodes of radio drama aired on Radio Zimbabwe , TV series for independent producers and popular satirical shows under Magamba TV. When not writing or reading, Muonde spends his life in the garden helping a swathes of colourful geraniums, hibiscus and roses open up their buds to the sun and bloom.

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