Zim elections: Lawyers were there, but couldn’t speak
Advocates Dali Mpofu and Tembeka Ngcukaitobi did not have the required clearance to address the judges of the Constitutional Court
A South African pair of lawyers were on Wednesday reduced to spectators in Zimbabwe’s highest court as it heard crucial arguments about the disputed outcome of its first post-Robert Mugabe elections.
The lawyers did not have the required clearance from Zimbabwe’s Justice Minister, Ziyambi Ziyambi, to address the nine judges of the Constitutional Court. Ziyambi was the chief electoral agent for President Emmerson Mnangagwa.
Advocates Dali Mpofu and Tembeka Ngcukaitobi were in Harare to represent their client, Nelson Chamisa of the MDC Alliance, who is challenging the election results.
Led by Chief Justice Luke Malaba, the nine judges are expected to deliver the last word on the outcome of the presidential results of the July 30 election by Friday at 2pm.
The incumbent, Mnangagwa, was declared the winner by 50.8% of the vote by the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission. Chamisa got 44.3% of the votes.
Approached by Times Select during recess on Wednesday, Mpofu said he was disappointed he and his colleague were unable to address the court. He said the legal team had been directly involved in drafting Chamisa’s founding affidavit.
Mpofu and Ngcukaitobi have been involved in the legal process from the onset. They were in Harare last week on Friday to help “prepare” filing their client’s head of arguments.
“We had divided up the arguments; my colleague (Ngcukaitobi) was going to deal with a certain section and I was also going to deal with a certain section and Advocate Thabani Mpofu was going to deal with another section,” said Mpofu.
“So it does affect planning when at the last minute it becomes clear that that plan is not going to work. Until last night (Tuesday) we didn’t sleep at all on the basis that this morning sanity would prevail. Obviously that did not happen ... the politicians had decided not to grant us permission.”Mpofu said what was even more “disturbing” was that Ziyambi was an interested party in the matter.
“The prejudice is not ours, we are professionals. The prejudice is with the client who has been denied the counsel of his choice,” said Mpofu.
The precinct of the Constitutional Court was cordoned off, with a large police presence and restricted entry.
In court, the MDC Alliance put before the judges its position, alleging that Mnangagwa and the electoral commission had worked in cahoots to give him an undeserved win. It claimed that votes were inflated and that ghost polling stations had been set up by the commission. Mpofu in his submissions said that “numbers don’t lie” as he questioned the discrepancy in votes cast versus the voters roll.
Chamisa wants the court to set aside the election results and order a run-off, claiming his rival, Mnangagwa, was unable to get the required 50% + 1 threshold to avoid a run-off vote.
Malaba and the judges questioned Mpofu why the lawyers had not sought a recount of the votes before making their election petition. Mpofu said reliance on the information from the ZEC was “like drinking from a poisoned well”.
Advocate Lewis Uriri, Mnangagwa’s representative, said there was no legal basis for the court to even hear the matter as it had not been lodged in time. Zanu-PF is seeking for the matter to be thrown out, based on that technicality.
The court hearing continued late into Wednesday evening.