MDC-T leader Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai last night withdrew his Constitutional Court (ConCourt) poll petition citing three key reasons, among them non-availability of crucial vote material which formed the basis of his court challenge.
In a sworn affidavit filed at the Supreme Court late last night, Tsvangirai said: “As at the time of deposing of this affidavit (15:43 hours on Friday August 16, 2013), the judgment in applications for materials had not been delivered. This, in my view, seriously handicaps my prosecution of the petition and it has rendered it impracticable for me to proceed with the same.”
The withdrawal affidavit, which was filed by Tsvangirai’s lawyers from Atherstone & Cook law firm, effectively leaves the court to declare President Robert Mugabe to be officially declared winner of the July 31 presidential polls.
“At any rate, given that the hearing of the petition is set to commence tomorrow (today) Saturday the 17th of August 2013, the grant of the urgent chamber application will be of no assistance to me as I will not have time to plough through the considerable material that I desire to have regard to before the hearing,” he said.
Tsvangirai added: “I am also aware that first respondent (Mugabe) addressed crowds at the National Heroes’ Acre during Heroes’ Day celebrations on 12 August 2013. I am further aware that he made certain unsavoury comments in which he criticised my decision to approach this court. The fact that the Chief Justice (Godfrey Chidyausiku) was in attendance on the day and the fact that he is expected to preside over my petition does very little to inspire my confidence in the possibility of my enjoyment of the constitutional right to a fair hearing. In this regard, I make no imputation, gratuitous or otherwise, about the integrity of the Honourable Chief Justice. My concern is with the conduct of the first respondent.
“For these reasons, I consider that I have no other option, but to take this grave decision. This, sadly, as far as I am concerned, entails that the Zimbabwe situation is far from resolved and on my part as leader of my political party, I shall endeavour to use all democratic means to bring about a successful resolution of this issue. I wish, however, to thank the court and all its officials who have taken time to consider the petition that I had filed.”
Earlier in the day, the MDC-T national executive had met and doubted if its legal challenge of Mugabe’s re-election would be given a fair hearing in the absence of supporting material which the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) has refused to release.
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Mugabe (89) and his Zanu PF party were declared winners of the July 31 election, but Tsvangirai had challenged the result at the ConCourt citing several electoral irregularities during the voting process.
The MDC-T national executive ruled out any chances of getting a fair hearing in its ConCourt challenge against Mugabe’s election victory, saying by denying it access to election material, the courts had already shown favouritism towards its opponent.
Addressing journalists at the MDC-T headquarters, Harvest House, in Harare, party spokesperson Douglas Mwonzora said: “The approach and attitude of the High Court toward our applications for information and material that is necessary for the prosecution of our petition demonstrates the uneven ground upon which we are operating and what we have stated before that the judicial arena is not suitable for the resolution of what is essentially a political dispute.
Last Wednesday, High Court judge Justice Chinembiri Bhunu reserved judgment in the matter where the MDC-T sought a court order compelling Zec to release election material used in the July 31 polls.
The MDC-T wanted to use the material to support its ConCourt electoral petition today.
The party has dismissed the election results as a “monumental farce” and cited in its petition several electoral irregularities in the way the presidential, parliamentary and council elections were conducted by Zec.
Mwonzora said the manner in which the case was handled and the indefinite reservation of judgment on the election materials case was not commensurate with the urgency of its circumstances.
“These are the materials and information we would like to use in support of our petition. We are seriously handicapped by our inability to access these materials and information, some of which by law we should be given by the electoral authorities. Two weeks after the election day, we still don’t have the electronic copy of the voters’ roll.
“The MDC is extremely worried that the delay in making a determination on the availability of the material will seriously undermine the presidential poll result challenge. We, therefore, express reservations on the credibility of the court process in the absence of the crucial material.”
The party also said timelines assigned by the court for specific legal processes were inadequate and favoured its opponents.
“They (Mugabe and Zanu PF) have had seven days to study and respond to the petition and yet both answering affidavits and heads of arguments are expected to be filed in a period of less than 24 hours. Further and in any event apart from the 1st respondent, President Mugabe, the other respondents, namely Zec, its chairperson and chief elections officer, did not respond by the deadline of Thursday 15 August 2013 as appointed by the court. Upon counsel’s enquiry, we understand that they have said they have up to 8pm on Friday 16 August 2013. If the hearing is due to commence on Saturday 17 August, this means we would have virtually no time to file the answering affidavit to those opposing papers. It means we would have been expected to file heads of argument without having had sight of the other key respondents’ response to our petition,” Mwonzora said.