TENDAI Biti’s People’s Democratic Party (PDP) has approached the High Court seeking an order to compel the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) to disclose the chemical composition of ballot papers being used in the forthcoming general elections to check if they were tamper-proof.
BY CHARLES LAITON
In the same application, the opposition party is also seeking an order permitting PDP to obtain samples of the ballot paper for an independent testing and another order declaring that Zec had breached the provisions of the Public Procurement and Disposal of Public Assets Act (Chapter 22:23) by failing to procure the printing of electoral material through an open tender.
The court application was filed on Monday this week by the PDP party leader and his party spokesperson Jacob Mafume. Zec and its chairperson, Justice Priscilla Chigumba were cited as respondents.
“Applicants (PDP, Biti and Mafume) seek an order declaring respondent (Justice Chigumba and Zec) to be in breach of the provisions of the Public Procurement and Disposal of Public Assets Act (Chapter 22:23) in failing to procure the printing of electoral material by way of open tender,” Biti said in his founding affidavit.
“In addition, and/or in the alternative, applicants seek an order directing the respondents to comply with the provisions of the Public Procurement and Disposal of Public Assets Act (Chapter 22:23) and to disclose the chemical composition of the ballot paper and make a solemn undertaking that such ballot papers are incapable of chromatography including the role thereof and permitting applicants to obtain samples for their independent testing of such ballot papers.”
Biti further said he is aware that the nature of the relief his party is seeking, is not provided for anywhere in the Electoral Act, but had approached the High Court with the knowledge that it “has inherent jurisdiction to determine this matter”.
“Applicants are aware that the Electoral Act (Chapter 2:13) establishes an Electoral Court for the purposes of heating appeals, applications and petitions in terms of its provisions. We also appreciate that this Act clothes the Electoral Court so established with exclusive jurisdiction over such issues. At the hearing of this matter and through legal argument, applicants will raise the following issues to support their contention that this court has jurisdiction to determine this matter notwithstanding the provisions of the Electoral Act,” he said.
The former minister also said Justice Chigumba made public pronouncements to the effect that Zec would procure ballot papers necessary for the elections through direct tender, adding she even proclaimed that a supplier had already been identified but the latter’s identity would not be disclosed.
“First respondent sought to justify these actions by citing security concerns and the limited time frame remaining ahead of the elections which may not be conducive for a full tender process. It is apparent that respondents’ consideration for proceeding by way of direct tender is the alleged security nature of the items sought to be procured. As legal argument will show, this is not one of the considerations in respect of which direct tender may be resorted to,” Biti said adding: “In the circumstances, it is legally impermissible for respondents to proceed by direct tender in this regard.”
The matter is yet to be set down for hearing.