Harare, January 15, 2013 – Zimbabwe’s top judge on Monday called for elections slated for later this year to be violence-free, as ill-preparedness raised fears of a repeat of previously bloody polls.
“We add our voice to those who are calling for free and fair elections that are held in a violence-free atmosphere,” chief justice Godfrey Chidyausiku said.
The vote is expected to take place later this year and would replace a shaky unity government lead by President Robert Mugabe and his political foe Morgan Tsvangirai.
Elections in 2008 left around 200 people dead and hundreds of thousands of others sought refuge in neighbouring South Africa and overseas.
Chidyausiku expressed the hope that the courts will have fewer election-related cases to handle this time around.
“Whilst the courts stand ready to hear cases relating to the forthcoming elections, it is my fervent hope that litigation if any, relating to the running of and the results emerging from the polls, will be very little.”
But there have been warnings that the legal framework for the vote is not ready.
Human Rights Watch last week warned that the country is well behind schedule with vital reforms needed to ensure a credible and violence-free election.
The global rights body said repressive legislation had yet to be struck off the books and the power-sharing government has drafted but not passed a new constitution.
Both Mugabe and Tsvangirai have called for a peaceful vote.
No date has been fixed yet, but the constitution requires that elections be held not later than four months after the end of a presidential term.
Mugabe’s mandate expires on June 29 and in theory, it means the latest date polling can take place is October 29. AFP