Thursday, 14th March 2013
The NCA took their case to the superior court after the High Court dismissed their application seeking to delay the constitutional referendum scheduled for Saturday.
The constitutional lobby group was arguing that the referendum date, announced by President Mugabe on February 15th, was too soon for citizens to study and understand the draft constitution.
High Court judge Justice George Chiweshe, who infamously set aside results of the 2008 presidential election, had ruled against the NCA on the grounds that the president’s decision could not be reviewed by the courts.
In a two-part judgement the Supreme Court Wednesday agreed with the NCA challenge, and ruled that the president can be questioned by citizens in the courts.
But Chief Justice Godfrey Chidyausiku dismissed part of the NCA appeal in which the group was asking for the postponement of the referendum from March 16th to a later date.
Justice Chidyausiku and five other judges unanimously agreed that the time set out by the president was adequate.
A spokesman for the group said they did not agree with the ruling and believed that “the four weeks given was not enough”.
In a statement, the NCA said the group was dismayed by this ruling but remained “unshaken”.
“We are working flat out in the remaining two days to mobilise as many Zimbabweans as possible to come out in their numbers and vote no in the referendum,” the NCA said in a statement released soon after the ruling.
Speaking to SW Radio Africa, NCA spokesman Madock Chivasa said he was confident that the majority of Zimbabweans will reject the draft on Saturday.
Chivasa said: “There is no way Zimbabweans would accept a constitution they have not even seen. However, the NCA will accept the decision should the majority vote yes for the draft charter on Saturday.”
Meanwhile, the NCA announced that one of its activists had been arrested for sticking up ‘Take Charge’ posters in Harare’s Machipisa Shopping Centre.
Prince Masukusa was reportedly arrested on Monday and was still being detained at Machipisa Police Station on Wednesday.
The NCA said it condemned the continued harassment of its “members as we approach the referendum, which casts doubt over the credibility of the referendum.
“We note that the police are acting in a partisan manner as they are not subjecting those campaigning for the yes vote to such harassment,” read the statement.
The leaders of the unity government have agreed that Supreme Court Judge Rita Makarau will be sworn in as the head of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission, after the referendum.
This was announced by Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai at a press conference in Harare on Tuesday. Speaking on behalf of the government principals, Tsvangirai said they had agreed that “it would be improper to have a temporary Chairperson for such a key institution as ZEC and that constitutionally, a substantive chairperson enjoys security of tenure which an acting chairperson does not have.”
“Security of tenure of the Chairperson and Commissioners is critical to the independence of ZEC. The principals expect Justice Makarau to be sworn in soon after the referendum subject to the completion of the procedural requirements under the Constitution,” a statement by Tsvangirai said.
He went on to tell journalists at the press conference that that acting ZEC chairperson Joyce Kazembe was not qualified to run the electoral body.
“Let me say this: The vice-chairperson (Kazembe) will not be chairperson of ZEC when we go for elections,” he said, adding: “We need a qualified judge to run elections. She is not qualified to be in that position.”
The Prime Minister gave no more details about the decision, which is being described as an illegal and unconstitutional move. According to the parliamentary watchdog series Bill Watch, the appointment of the ZEC chair can only be finalised when both the Judicial Service Commission and the
Parliamentary Committee on Standing Rules and Orders have been consulted.
Political analyst Clifford Mashiri also questioned if the rules, stipulated by the constitution, had actually been followed in terms of choosing the ZEC chair. He said it was “preposterous” that the MDC has allowed ZANU PF to choose a judge “that is know to have ZANU PF sympathies,” to head such an important body.
“Morgan Tsvangirai is just giving in to Robert Mugabe’s demands,” Mashiri said.
The Prime Minister also announced Tuesday that the Observers Accreditation Committee (OAC) which is responsible for the accreditation of observers at both the referendum and the election must be “re-configured.” He said this needs to done to create “equitable political representation to ensure the political ground is fair and level for all contestants.”
Tsvangirai gave no details about when this ‘reconfiguration’ will happen, despite the referendum now being just three days away.
Analyst Mashiri said on Wednesday that if the unity government was in any way committed to carrying out a successful referendum, the process would be postponed until the issues raised by Tsvangirai have been dealt with.
“The government does not seem interested in this referendum. They only want it rubberstamped so they can have elections. They are trivialising and that is very worrying,” Mashiri said.
The constitutionally mandated anti-corruption watchdog was this week barred from carrying out two separate legal searches, in a move that has been described as ‘scandalous’.
The Zimbabwe Anti Corruption Commission was granted search warrants by the High Court on Monday, allowing it to search the premises of the Zimbabwe Mining Development Corporation (ZMDC), and the National Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment Board (NIEEB).
On Monday and Tuesday, attempts were made by the Commission to search the NIEEB offices in Harare, but those attempts were blocked by armed men who barred the investigators access to the premises.
The Commission’s offices were then reportedly stormed by armed police on Tuesday, who blocked a team of investigators from carrying out the ZMDC raid.
According to the NewsDay newspaper, the police action blocking the ZMDC probe was a result of an urgent call made by the ZMDC chairman Godwills Masimirembwa to Police Commissioner General Augustine Chihuri.
The police have denied this is the case, but NewsDay quoted Masimirembwa as saying that he made the call because the Commission team was supposed to be accompanied by the police. Masimirembwa also said ZMDC lawyers would be challenging the legality of the High Court warrant on the grounds that it was not issued by the proper authority.
The NIEEB is also set to contest the Commission’s warrant, which was granted by the High Court after a Magistrates Court dismissed it.
The NIEEB has been implicated in massive corruption, made public by the Daily News newspaper, which last month uncovered serious flaws in the nearly $1 billion Zimplats indigenisation deal. Daily News journalist Gift Phiri, who has been investigating the NIEEB activities, said the attempts to bar the anti-corruption probe were “scandalous”.
“I don’t understand why they are stonewalling the investigation. It seems like there is some kind of cover up happening,” Phiri told SW Radio Africa.
He added that this makes the situation more suspicious than it was “because these actions don’t paint a good picture in terms of transparency.”
National police spokesperson Charity Charamba said police are investigating a case in which William Chapepa is alleged to have been petrol-bombed by unknown people on Monday night and sustained burns on his thighs.
“We have received a case in which Cde William Chapepa, a Zanu PF aspiring candidate in Makoni West, ward 1, was attacked by unknown people,” Charamba told a news conference yesterday.
“According to information given to the police, Chapepa woke up around 2am after hearing explosive sounds only to find a flame of fire besides his car. When he tried to check what it was, he discovered that it was a petrol bomb.”
Charamba said police were probing the attack.
The reported petrol bomb comes barely a month after a schoolboy, Christpower Maisiri whose father Shepherd is an MDC aspiring MP in the nearby constituency died in a fertiliser and chemical inferno, according to police.
Zimbabwe on Tuesday fell short of accusing Britain of smuggling thousands of small radios into the country, which were being distributed “illegally” in rural areas - President Robert Mugabe’s Zanu PF party says in order to aid its rivals in elections due this year.
Without naming the foreign mission responsible, Mugabe’s spokesman George Charamba said the Foreign Affairs Ministry was exploring “the complicity of this embassy”, adding: “Soon people will be summoned.”
Mugabe’s Zanu PF party maintains a tight grip on the airwaves. So-called “pirate” radio stations broadcasting from England, the United States and the Netherlands are regularly jammed.
Zanu PF fears the radios - known as Life-Players - could be used to “subvert the country’s electoral processes”. It is believed the radios - which have seen dozens of NGO activists arrested - are manufactured by a United Kingdom-based company, Lifeline Energy.
The wind-up and solar-powered radios have an audio storage capacity of 64 gigabytes and can receive FM, AM and Show Wave signals.
If Zimbabwe carries through its threat to summon Britain’s ambassador, this would mark a significant escalation of tensions between the two countries. Relations have been frayed since Mugabe’s government embarked on land reforms in 2000 which targeted farms owned by descendents of British colonialists.
Charamba added in a statement: “We are investigating to see whether this was consistent with the provisions of the Vienna Convention. We are also keen to understand the interests of that embassy by bringing that consignment using its diplomatic status.
“We are also investigating the institutions which received those radios for distribution countrywide. We are also trying to establish their registration status. We are also investigating whether they have such mandate within their terms of reference to engage in such work.”
The Zanu PF side of the ruling coalition recently came under fire from the MDC factions and NGOs for instigating a police clampdown on the groups distributing the radios.
But Charamba says laws have been broken. Electronic shops selling radios must also sign-up buyers for a mandatory listener’s licence, which the government says was not being done by the NGOs.
Said Charamba: “There are fundamental questions that come into play. How were they (radios) imported? Who is holding the dealer’s licence? Who shipped the radios into Zimbabwe? How did they make it through our borders and which border points were used? Who was the clearing agent and what was the purpose?
“There was a sinister intention to suggest to the world that the government of Zimbabwe is so absurd as stopping distribution of radios. There are many radio-dealers in this country and who go about their business unimpeded. Radio penetration in this country is the highest on the continent and that has been achieved without this monastery gadgetry.
“It is not about radios but a specific gadget that has been produced against the tenets of the Global Political Agreement and subverting the electoral processes apart from undermining our laws.”
No comment was immediately available from the UK embassy in Harare last night.
ACHPR’s ruling followed an application by five Zimbabweans based in South Africa who challenged the government’s position after they were denied the right to vote in previous elections.
The ruling was passed at the ACHPR’s 13th extra ordinary session held in Banjul, the Gambia from February 19 to 25.
The Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights on December 27 last year, filed a complaint on behalf of Gabriel Shumba, Kumbirai Tasuwa Muchemwa, Gilbert Chamunorwa, Diana Zimbudzana and Solomon Sairos Chikohwero, all working in
Part of the ruling reads: “...the respondent State (Republic of
Zimbabwe) allows Zimbabweans living abroad to vote in the referendum of March 16 2013 and the general elections thereafter, whether or not they are in the service of the government.
“That the respondent State provides all eligible voters, including the victims in this communication, the same voting facilities it affords to Zimbabweans working abroad in the service of the government and that the respondent State takes measures to give effect to its obligations under the African Charter in accordance with Article 1 of the African Charter, including in areas of free participation in the government.”
The commission requested Zimbabwe to report back on the implementation of the provisional measures requested within 15 days of receipt of the decision in accordance with Rule 98(4) of its rules and procedures.
The five argued that since they participated in the constitution-drafting process, through public consultations and attendances during Diaspora meetings held by the Parliamentary Select Committee in Johannesburg last year, they should be allowed to participate in the referendum as well.