Tsvangirai risks arrest

PRIME MINISTER Morgan Tsvangirai risks arrest on contempt of court charges after the Electoral Court recommended the prosecution of his lawyers for statements the MDC-T leader made in a petition to the court.

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Electoral Court judge Justice Chinembiri Bhunu said the Attorney-General’s Office will be informed on how to proceed on the matter.

Justice Bhunu said Tsvangirai had made “scathing and disparaging remarks concerning the entire judiciary of this country”.

“It is ironic that having made those scathing disparaging remarks of and concerning the entire judiciary of this country, the applicant and his lawyers are now seeking justice before the same judiciary in which they have no confidence,” Bhunu said in his judgment, dismissing Tsvangirai’s appeal to be furnished with all electoral documents.

“His conduct in this regard is symptomatic of an unbalanced convoluted mindset, unbefitting a man of his stature and station in life.”

The judge said Tsvangirai and his lawyers were contemptuous of the courts and their conduct could not be tolerated.

“Their (lawyers) conduct betrays a determined frame of mind to abuse and holds this court in contempt, with scant regard to its integrity,” he said.

“Previous warnings appear to have fallen on deaf ears.

“That type of conduct cannot be tolerated by these courts.

“Time has now come to rein in errant legal practitioners bent on bringing this court’s integrity into disrepute.”

Justice Bhunu added: “Having aligned themselves with their client’s views and his perception of this court and the entire judiciary by filing the despicable dossier of papers in court documents, which have been placed before this court, the applicant’s lawyers cannot seek to dissociate themselves from their client’s contemptuous conduct.

“They must share collective responsibility, as they appear to have acted in common purpose and seek to justify and sustain those views and perception of the judiciary in a court of law.”

Tsvangirai was represented by Advocate Lewis Uriri, instructed by Charles Mhike of Artherstone and Cook.

Tsvangirai wanted the Electoral Court to force the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) to release July 31 election material that he wanted to use in a challenge in the Constitutional Court (ConCourt) against President Robert Mugabe’s poll victory.

He reportedly insinuated in court papers that the judiciary was biased towards Zanu PF.

However, Justice Bhunu said the outgoing PM’s conduct may be attributed to the “ignorance of the law” but the same could not be said about lawyers.

Meanwhile, the Concourt has said the July 31 elections were free and fair, paving the way for Mugabe’s inauguration for a seventh term tomorrow.

Delivering the court’s judgment yesterday, Chief Justice Godfrey Chidyausiku declared Mugabe as the legitimate winner of the polls and ordered the MDC-T to pay the legal costs.

Justice Chidyausiku said according to Section 93 (1) of the Constitution, a presidential petition cannot be withdrawn before it was determined.

This was after Tsvangirai attempted to withdraw the petition, claiming he was unlikely to get a fair hearing in the absence of the requisite poll material from ZEC.

“It can only be finalised by the determination of the Concourt by either declaring the election valid and swearing in will take place within 48 hours or alternatively, by declaring the election invalid and election will be held within 60 days,” he said in dismissing Tsvangirai’s petition.

“The purported withdrawal before determination of the matter is of no legal force.

“The application is dismissed with cost. Robert Mugabe is the duly elected President of Zimbabwe and here declared the winner in that election.”

He said consequence of the dismissal of the petition implies that the polls were free, fair and credible.

Tsvangirai described the events of yesterday as a “sad day for democracy”.

“It is a sad day for democracy,” he wrote on his Facebook page.

“The Constitutional Court has ruled on the presidential election case which I withdrew after realising the result was predetermined.

“The Constitutional Court’s ‘finding’ that the elections were ‘free and fair’ effectively impacts on the 95 petitions lodged by MDC candidates.

“At the same time, Justice Chinembiri Bhunu of the Electoral Court has approached the prosecuting authorities to deal with my lawyers, who now face arrest.

“I can assure you, all these setbacks can only strengthen our resolve to restore democracy and the rule of law in Zimbabwe.”

Speaking after the Concourt ruling, MDC-T spokesperson Douglas Mwonzora maintained his party attended the Concourt proceeding to show their respect of the institution, although they had withdrawn the petition.

He said the outcome of the case was predetermined because Mugabe had pledged that he would not surrender his victory and that he had already announced the inauguration date before the case was concluded.

He queried why Justice Bhunu decided to deliver his ruling yesterday, the day the Concourt was also making a determination on Tsvangirai’s petition.

Mugabe won 61% of the presidential vote in last month’s elections, but Tsvangirai was challenging the poll verdict, alleging massive rigging and describing the poll as a “monumental farce”.

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