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Zimbabwe Court Delays Decision on Election Results

By Peta Thornycroft
07 April 2008

The Movement for Democratic Change, MDC, must now wait until at least Tuesday to hear the outcome of its application to the High Court to force election officials to release results of the presidential election held nine days ago. Delia Robertson in Johannesburg has this report from Peta Thornycroft in Harare.

Judge Tendai Uchena once gain postponed his decision in the application by the opposition MDC for a ruling to compel the Zimbabwe Elections Commission to release the result of the presidential poll. He is apparently decided whether or not he has jurisdiction in the matter.

However, late last month, Judge Uchena ruled in another election case brought to him by the MDC, that he did have jurisdiction over the electoral commission.

Lawyers acting for the MDC lawyers say that in their view, the Zimbabwe Election Commission is deliberately delaying the results on instructions from President Robert Mugabe's ZANU-PF.

As Zimbabweans wait for the outcome, several top ZANU-PF officials, including administration secretary Didymus Mutasa, are using the state media to carry reports in which they are calling for recounts or adjustments to results of the four elections which took place simultaneously on March 29.

Some have even called for a recount of the presidential poll before the result is even announced. There is no provision in Zimbabwe's Electoral Law, for a recount of the presidential vote.

In terms of electoral laws, results in all four polls were posted outside each polling station by local officials of the Commission. This process began early the day following the elections.

The independent Zimbabwe Election Support Network, says of all the three national polls, for the president, for parliament and for the senate, arriving at the result in the presidential poll was the least complicated. Local results had merely to be collated by the Commission in Harare and immediately made public.

There were only 2-point-5 million votes cast and the nearly eighteen hundred new district councilors found out from their local polling stations more than a week ago they had been elected.

The tallies in the polls for parliament and the senate were released last week, less speedily than in previous elections. In both houses, ZANU-PF narrowly lost its majority.

The MDC's application for the immediate release of the presidential poll is opposed by the Zimbabwe Election Commission argued for hours late Sunday, claiming the High Court had no jurisdiction over it.

Meanwhile the Commercial Farmers Union, CFU, says it is now trying to assist dozens of white commercial farmers who are being violently threatened or forced off their land around the country.

Political observers believe this resurgence in farm invasions is directly linked to what they say are Mr. Mugabe's electoral losses at the poll.

The CFU said the remaining few hundred white farmers still working small pieces of their original land holdings were bracing themselves for eviction. Several have already fled with their families to Harare.

Only a few hundred white farmers remain after the eviction of four thousand which began in 2000 when Mr Mugabe lost a referendum on constitutional amendments, his first political defeat since coming to power in 1980.

CFU president Trevor Gifford said Monday he was extremely worried as the police were not assisting to prevent the illegal evictions of farmers. Police in the Masvingo, 250-kilometers south of Harare, at first drove off invaders but farmers in the area say they have since left the threatened farms.

One farmer in this area had reported to the Union that a ZANU-PF official arrived at a hotel in the town Sunday, and has been handing out money to party workers who have been seen in several land invasions since Friday.

Farmers are still harvesting crops at a time of the most serious shortage of the staple food, corn, in Zimbabwe's history.

Didymus Mutasa, who is also Lands and Security Minister, did not take calls Monday and calls to the Lands Ministry in Harare went unanswered.

When contacted by telephone, police in Harare said they had no information about the farm invasions.

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