Fidelis Munyoro Chief Court Reporter
The Electoral Court is tomorrow expected to decide who in Zanu-PF should contest the June 10 by-election on the revolutionary party’s ticket in Harare East constituency.In terms of the Electoral Act, the judge hearing an election matter is required to pronounce judgment within 48 hours after hearing arguments from contesting parties.
In this case, it is mandatory for Justice Chinembiri Bhunu to make his decision within 48 hours in the wrangle pitting Cde Terence Mukupe and Cde Mavis Gumbo who are both claiming to be representing Zanu-PF.
Cde Mukupe had been announced as the winner of the party’s primary elections to contest in Harare East.
But his papers were rejected by the Nomination Court sitting in Harare on April 16 after Zanu-PF Secretary for Administration Cde Ignatius Chombo wrote to the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission advising the officials that the party had withdrawn the candidature.
The party replaced Cde Mukupe with Cde Mavis Gumbo of the same party, who then successfully filed her papers to represent Zanu-PF in the election slated for June 10.
Cde Mukupe polled 651 votes against Cde Gumbo’s 369.
The dispute spilled into the courts after Cde Mukupe filed an urgent chamber application last week contesting the party’s rejection of his nomination papers at the 11th hour.
Advocate Sylvester Hashiti, who argued the matter for Cde Mukupe, confirmed that ruling on the matter was reserved.
He argued that the position has always been that Zanu-PF has internal constitutional structures capable of adequately resolving any disputes over candidatures.
“No one can unilaterally withdraw the candidature of a duly nominated candidate who prevailed in party primary elections and whose candidature has been endorsed by the party’s commissariat,” argued Adv Hashiti.
“The court and ZEC cannot be arbiters of internal Zanu-PF issues and must accordingly order the restoration of Mukupe’s candidature and await Zanu-PF to then correct the misrepresentation made by Gumbo and her allies.”
Adv Hashiti further argued that ZEC’s, errors on preferring one candidate over the other in light of cloudy and opaque instructions should be corrected by then Appellate Court.
He said the position as advanced by the party’s Secretary for Commissariat, Cde Saviour Kasukuwere, “under oath and pain of perjury in his affidavits and in an official capacity ought to prevail”.
In her argument, Cde Gumbo contended that she was properly nominated and the rejection of Cde Mukupe’s nomination papers was within the law.
“The nomination officer (Mrs Fiona Kurima) has absolute discretion to accept or reject a candidate’s papers if she is doubtful to his sponsorship by a political party,” she argued.
ZEC, which was also listed as respondent concurred with Cde Gumbo’s argument that in terms of Section 46 (10) of the Electoral Act, the Nomination Court can exercise its discretion if there is doubt with regards to sponsorship of a candidate by the party he or she claims to be representing.
“In this case, the same people representing Zanu-PF who submitted the list of candidates for nomination are the same people who came to the Nomination Court to withdraw the candidature of Mukupe,” argued ZEC.
According to sources close to the proceedings, Justice Bhunu noted that there appeared to be disagreements between Cde Kasukuwere and Cde Chombo.
“The two gave different positions to the ZEC and court,” said the sources.
In his papers filed at the Electoral Court, Cde Mukupe challenged the decision of the party arguing that he won the primary elections.
To strengthen his case, Cde Mukupe has letters and affidavits from the party’s commissariat confirming that he was the candidate for the party in the forthcoming by-elections.
Cde Gumbo who also filed her opposing papers stated that Cde Chombo ordered the withdrawal of Cde Mukupe’s candidature.
The withdrawal letter authored by the party’s secretariat took away the right, prompting Cde Mukupe to file the court challenge.
He is seeking an order setting aside his disqualification as the Zanu-PF candidate and wants to be declared the party’s official candidate.