HARARE – The Electoral Court has said that Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec)’s chairperson cannot be cited as respondent in election petitions, with the court ruling that the litigation was not permissible at law.
Rita Makarau, the Zec chairperson, had been cited as one of the respondents in some MDC petitions challenging the outcome of the July 31 vote.
However, Zec’s lawyers Tawanda Kanengoni and Charles Nyika, raised an exception, arguing that the chairperson’s citation in the application was in violation of the Electoral Act.
In his judgment, Justice Chinembiri Bhunu said: “In the final analysis, I can only hold that the citing of the chairperson of the Electoral Commission as a respondent under Section 166 of the Electoral Act (Chapter 2:13) is unlawful and to that extent not permissible at law.”
He said that the chairperson of the commission was responsible for conducting elections in an impartial, fair and just manner, without fear or favour. He added that the chairperson’s duties equated her to a judge, umpire, match commissioner or referee, who is not expected to participate in the conflict or to take sides.
Bhunu ruled that the citing of the chairperson to be part of the election petition was “misplaced” as this would convert her into a player in a game of politics.
He said this would prompt her to lose her impartiality as her sight will be clouded by the dust of the conflict.
“The allegation that the chairperson of the Electoral Commission’s conduct of the elections was irregular to such an extent to have adversely affected the outcome of the elections, though premature is being brought in the face of a Constitutional Court ruling that the presidential election simultaneously conducted at the same time and places as part and parcel of the harmonised elections were free and fair, untainted by any irregularity,” Bhunu said.
He, however, ordered the election petition for Mudzi West Constituency to be referred to trial, after throwing out an exception raised by a Zanu PF candidate Aquilina Katsande, who won the seat ahead of Ushe Menard Paradzayi.