THE opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) has hauled President Emmerson Mnangagwa and his ruling Zanu PF party to court in the hunt for an order compelling them not to engage in electoral malpractices by seeking to procure the support or assistance of traditional leaders and making them to act in a partisan manner or further the interests of their political party or cause.
In an urgent chamber application filed in the Electoral Court on Tuesday 26 June 2018 by Jeremiah Bamu of Mbidzo, Muchadehama and Makoni Legal Practitioners and supported by Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights, the Nelson Chamisa-led MDC party argued that President Mnangagwa had early this month urged his party members contesting in the harmonised elections scheduled for 30 July 2018 to offer trinkets to chiefs and traditional leaders to procure their support in the elections.
The MDC party argued that President Mnangagwa’s utterances, which were made on 09 June 2018 to his Zanu PF party supporters in Mutoko in Mashonaland East province, motivate some ruling party members to engage in corrupt practices for the purposes of vote buying ahead of the elections scheduled for 30 July 2018.
The opposition party said President Mnangagwa’s utterances also invite chiefs and other traditional leaders to engage in intimidatory practices and coerce their subjects, who will be voters in the forthcoming elections, to cast their vote in favour of candidates sponsored by Zanu PF party including but not limited to President Mnangagwa.
The MDC party argued that President Mnangagwa’s utterances constitute a threat to the free expression of political will and undermines the possibility of holding a free and fair poll on 30 July 2018.
President Mnangagwa’s actions, the MDC party said, are in direct violation of the Constitution, the Electoral Act (Chapter 2:13) and the Traditional Leaders Act (Chapter 29:17).
The opposition party also protested against the attendance of traditional leaders at partisan political gatherings such as at the political rally held in Mutoko in Mashonaland East province arguing that it is a direct violation of the constitution and electoral laws.
Such attendance the MDC party said, confirms fears that traditional leaders are partisan and pander to the whims of Zanu PF party. The MDC party said should such conduct persist, it will be impossible to hold a free and fair poll on 30 July 2018.
Besides barring President Mnangagwa, the MDC party also wants the Electoral Court to order Chief Fortune Charumbira in his capacity as President of the National Council of Chiefs to circulate the obtained provisional court order widely through the auspices of the National Council of Chiefs and Provincial Assemblies of Chiefs.
In addition, the MDC party wants the Electoral Court to bar all traditional leaders under the purview of the National Council of Chiefs led by Chief Charumbira not to engage in partisan political activities such as attending partisan political rallies and/or uttering partisan political statements.
The MDC party also complained about the conduct of Chief Zvimba, known as Alfred Tome, who on 4 June 2018 2018 in Zvimba South, in Mashonaland West province addressed a Zanu PF rally and publicly chanted the ruling party’s political slogans and openly declared support for President Mnangagwa and Zanu PF party before his subjects.
The MDC party’s lawyers argued that public endorsement of political candidates by traditional leaders constitutes a violation of the Constitution and the Act which governs them and more so in an election period such as the one Zimbabwe is currently in.