Mugabe pressing on with hearing

HARARE – Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe's party appears to be pressing on with a hearing to an election challenge filed by losing candidate Morgan Tsvangirai even though he says he's withdrawn it.

The Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) opposition leader Tsvangirai announced late Friday he wouldn’t get a fair hearing so he was not proceeding with his petition but state media says the matter must be settled by the courts.

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The State controlled Sunday Mail said the Constitutional Court will sit tomorrow at 10 am. It said the Chief Justice Godfrey Guwa Chidyausiku is likely to recuse himself from hearing the case.

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Morgan Tsvangirai has cited the judge as one of the reasons he wouldn’t get a fair hearing.

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Tsvangirai insists that although he has withdrawn the court petition, he is not conceding defeat.

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The Sunday Mail quotes legal sources who said that if Tsvangirai’s lawyers don’t appear for the court hearing tomorrow, they will be in contempt of court.

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Mugabe’s lawyers gave their response to the MDC challenge on Friday, leaving the party with less than 24 hours to study the documents ahead of the court hearing, Mwonzora said.

In its arguments calling for a fresh election, the MDC alleged hundreds of thousands of voters were turned away and the voters’ roll was flawed, containing at least 870,000 duplicated names.

Zimbabwe’s constitution says the court must rule on the case within 14 days. Analysts predict the legal challenge is unlikely to succeed because, they say, Mugabe’s Zanu-PF party dominates the judiciary and other state institutions.

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Pointing to flaws in the July 31 vote cited by domestic observers, Western governments – especially the United States – have questioned the credibility of the election outcome and are considering whether to prolong sanctions against Mugabe.

But Mugabe is drawing comfort from African election observers who endorsed the elections as largely free and orderly and have urged Zimbabweans to move on peacefully. Western observers were barred from observing the vote.