President Mnangagwa and the ruling Zanu-PF have described as mere political grandstanding, an application by the MDC seeking to compel the ruling party from alleged interferrence with the independence of traditional leaders ahead of the harmonised election.
An order has since been issued against Chief Fortune Charumbira and the Chief’s Council in another High Court matter, to stop meddling in politics, but the MDC last week filed a fresh application seeking almost the same order.
The Chamisa-led MDC party argued that President Mnangagwa had early last month urged his party’s candidates in the harmonised elections scheduled for July 30, to offer trinkets to chiefs and traditional leaders to procure their support in the elections.
The opposition party argued that President Mnangagwa’s utterances, which were made on June 9, 2018 to Zanu-PF party supporters in Mutoko in Mashonaland East province, motivated some ruling party members to engage in corrupt practices for the purposes of vote buying ahead of the elections.
Responding to the urgent chamber application, President Mnangagwa, through Zanu-PF’s secretary for legal affairs Cde Munyaradzi Paul Mangwana, urged the Electoral Court to dismiss the application.
He said it was a way of undermining the elections before they were even held.
“It is pure grandstanding,” said Cde Mangwana. “It does not have, as its object, a judicial pronouncement in the interest of the democratic process. It is meant to make a political statement for the benefit of external forces thought to have an impact in the conduct of international relations, bearing in mind that international relations are based primarily on the principle of recognition.
“The object of this application is to find a basis for undermining the recognition of the Government of the people that will be elected on July 30.”
Advocate Lewis Uriri of the Temple Bar (Inns of court) instructed by Mr Aston Musunga are representing the President and the ruling party in the matter, while Mr Alec Muchadehama is acting for MDC.
The respondents further argued that the MDC just filed a frivolous application to lay the basis for filing of petitions after the elections.
“The second object is to create one of several intended bases for election petitions after the applicant’s demise at the forthcoming polls,” reads the response.
The lawyers also argued that the Chamisa-led MDC party had no locus standi to file the election-related challenge because it did not register to participate in the forthcoming election. Only the MDC-T led by Dr Thokozani Khupe and the MDC Alliance led by Mr Chamisa are participants in the elections.
“The fact is that, for purposes of the election in issue, it (MDC) has not registered its intention to participate,” the lawyers said.
“Only two parties with the prefix “MDC” have indicated their participation. These are the MDC-T led by Dr Khupe and MDC Alliance led by Mr Chamisa.
“The applicant (MDC) is neither of these. It clearly has no interest in the election in its capacity as a participant.”
Cde Mangwana urged the court to dismiss the application with costs on a higher scale.
The respondents also argued that the law did not allow a sitting President to be sued in his personal capacity in matters of that nature and that the court should simply refuse to hear the matter.
They argued that the MDC-T leadership wrangle was still pending before the High Court and that Mr Chamisa and his faction cannot be allowed to hold themselves out as the legitimate MDC before determination of matter.
“The Chamisa faction cannot seek to undermine the pending litigation by holding itself out in these proceedings as the legitimate MDC,” the respondents argued.
On the merits, President Mnangagwa denied ever encouraging candidates to bribe traditional leaders.
“By the applicant’s own admission, the first respondent does not state that aspiring candidates must proceed to bribe traditional leaders,” reads the papers before the court. “He does not make that encouragement. He does not direct traditional leaders to take bribes nor does he threaten them. The words attributed to him must be understood in their everyday grammatical sense.”