High Court to hear special vote challenge Monday

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HARARE – High Court judge Justice George Chiweshe will Monday hear an appeal by Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai’s MDC party to prevent a special vote by security and electoral officers who will be on duty on polling day.

Morgan Komichi, MDC deputy national chairman, said in his court application the number of officers casting their ballot today has been vastly inflated, yet the case has been set down for hearing by Chiweshe — who ran the 2008 vote — for Monday, a day after the special vote has already started.

The application cites Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) as the first respondent, co-ministers of Home Affairs Theresa Makone and Kembo Mohadi as second respondents, police chief Augustine Chihuri and the police force as third respondents and Finance minister Tendai Biti as the fourth respondent.

Komichi asked the High Court to stop the special two-day vote, saying the 69 000 police officers set to vote on Sunday and Monday were way above the 44 133 officers shown on a ministry of Finance salary schedule for the whole country.

“Applicants have it on good authority that 1st respondent intends to allow 69  222 persons to vote via the special ballot yet the official  number of persons under 3rd respondent’s command does not exceed 44 113 in terms of information from 2nd respondent, who is their employer and 4th respondent who is the minister of Finance,” says Komichi’s application.

“Despite being requested to explain the disparities, 3rd respondent has refused to furnish applicants with an explanation. 1st respondent on its part has failed to accede to applicants’ requests for the disparity in the number of police officers as evident in the government records and the alarmingly huge number that is seeking to register via the special ballot vote.”

The court challenge, handled by leading rights lawyer Harrison Nkomo, avers that Komichi has a valid and reasonable apprehension that the special ballot box is fraught with malignant disparities caused by the lack of transparency on who actually constitutes the  69 222 police officers who have applied for the special ballot vote when in fact the official figures show a glaringly low figure of just about 44 113.

“The special voting exercise should therefore be stayed until 1st respondent has properly verified and authenticated the findings on the 69 222 applications whereupon same should be made public so as not to mar the elections with irregularities potentially arising from a disputed special vote,” Komichi says in the court papers.

“Alternatively this court is requested to direct 1st respondent to set up mechanisms by which the special voting exercise shall be transparent, its beneficiaries fully verifiable and that 1st respondent shall not exceed the official number of police officers in the special voting exercise.”

Tsvangirai and President Robert Mugabe are running neck-and-neck in polls but well ahead of three other candidates.

To win outright, a candidate needs more than 50 percent of the votes cast by the 6,2 million eligible voters, or it goes to a run-off.

That date could slip depending on any legal challenges. The 61-year-old prime minister who beat Mugabe in 2008 has joined forces with ex-Zanu PF politburo member Simba Makoni, to form the Grand Coalition for change.

Tsvangirai — squaring off with Mugabe for the third time — is known for regaling crowds with traditional riddles and commands a cult-like following.

He has expressed fears of electoral fraud in a process that has been fraught with poor funding and a myriad of irregularities.

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