Mugabe To Set Date For By-Elections By March

It was not clear on Tuesday whether this means Mugabe will call the election for the three constituencies only or will call a general election as he had hinted in his Court papers.

In an order granted late Tuesday afternoon, Chiweshe, who led the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission that presided over the violent and controversial harmonised elections and the discredited June 2008 presidential re-run election, granted Mugabe six months to comply with a Supreme Court order compelling him to declare dates for by-elections in Nkayi South, Bulilima East and Lupane East.

“The period within which to comply with the order granted in case No. SC 267/11 be and is hereby further extended to the 31st day of March 2013,” reads part of the order.

Chiweshe said he will give reasons for the order later.

Mugabe last week petitioned the High Court in a bid to evade contempt of court charges by begging for an extension to hold the elections.

In his urgent chamber application, Mugabe justified the extension as necessary to allow his government to raise financial resources amounting to almost $270 000 needed to stage a referendum on a new draft governance charter, hold by-elections and harmonised general elections planned for March 31 2013.

Mugabe’s elections dilemma was brought upon him by three former Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) legislators Abednico Bhebhe, Njabuliso Mguni and Norman Mpofu, who in 2010 took him to court demanding the staging of by-elections after their parliamentary membership was terminated following their suspension and subsequent expulsion from the MDC party.

Mugabe’s latest bid for an extension is the second one inside one month after he first obtained a reprieve in the High Court late last month when Justice Chiweshe granted a consent order extending the period within which he should fix by-elections dates to October 1, 2012.