OPPOSITION MDC Alliance presidential candidate Nelson Chamisa’s bid to engage five foreign lawyers in his presidential election challenge could hit a brick-wall, as they are yet to be cleared to practise locally.
BY RICHARD CHIDZA/OBEY MANAYITI
Justice minister Ziyambi Ziyambi yesterday said while the application for exemption by the lawyers had reached him, there were gaps that might prove difficult to deal with given the limited time left for the sitting of the Constitutional Court (ConCourt) tomorrow.
“I received an application for ministerial exemption for (South African) advocates Dali Mpofu, Tembeka Ngcukaitobi, Jeremy Gauntlet, Mitchell Jason and Tapiwa Shumba on Friday around 2pm.
“They wrote in general that they were applying for a ministerial exemption, but did not provide details of the lawyers’ qualifications, so I can apply my mind in consultation with the Council for Legal Education as required by law,” Ziyambi said.
On Sunday, Ziyambi said government would do everything to make sure the expatriate lawyers get the necessary work permits to practice tomorrow when the ConCourt sits to hear the landmark case.
The application was in terms of Section 7 of the Legal Practitioners Act that provides that: “Where the minister after consultation with the Council for Legal Education is satisfied that having regard to the importance, complexity and special circumstances of the matter, it is just and reasonable for a person to obtain the services of a legal practitioner who has special or particular experience relating
to such matter and such legal practitioner is not normally resident in Zimbabwe, but is from a reciprocating country, he may grant a certificate exempting the legal practitioner from satisfying the requirement of Section 5 of the Act.”
Section 5 of the Legal Practitioners Act relates to requirements that lawyers ordinarily have to meet in order to practise in Zimbabwe.
Ziyambi yesterday said after going through the application from Atherstone & Cook Legal Practitioners on behalf of the five advocates, there was communication in a bid to iron out the gaps.
“I wrote to them in the morning indicating they had not furnished me with sufficient information to apply my mind. They wrote back around 3pm this afternoon (yesterday). I have now written to the Council for Legal Education as required by law,” he said.
“When I get the recommendation from the Council for Legal Education, I will then check if the other requirements have been met. I must, however, emphasise that when they wrote back, they did not provide information relating to the others except for Gauntlet.”
But Chamisa said Zanu PF felt threatened by their team, adding that Ziyambi was biased and would not make a fair arbiter.
“We are resolving that and, in fact, we are working flat out to make sure that there is no obstacle to our team. They (Zanu PF) should not be afraid of our team, you don’t target members of our team because you are afraid of the A Team that we are going to give and, of course, people like Ziyambi Ziyambi are also interested parties and they cannot be fair arbiters on this matter, but we will deal with that and our legal team is well seized with the matter. It is being sorted out,” he said while addressing a Press conference yesterday.
Chamisa said he was confident that his legal team would overturn the electoral fraud he claims was engineered by the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission in favour of President-elect Emmerson Mnangagwa.
“I fully understand your anxiety as a nation around the upcoming court case that we are challenging after the subversion of the will of the people by Zec in cahoots with some of the rogue elements that are in our midst,” he said.
“I would like to guarantee you that we have a very strong case and we are going to overturn this electoral fraud consistent with what we promised that we are going to defend your vote, our vote, the people’s vote.”
But Mnangagwa’s lawyers yesterday took exception to Chamisa’s remarks, saying they were meant to intimidate the ConCourt bench and force the judges to rule in his favour.
“His latest pronouncements, which are very much in character, show a continued pre-disposition towards political violence, and well-calculated attempts at poisoning the environment for a fair trial by instilling fear in judges so they may, as a result of fear, subvert the law in his favour,” Patrick Chinamasa, one of Mnangagwa’s lawyers, said.
“It defies legal sense why a person who is an officer of the court seeks to make extra-judicial pronouncements while still making court submissions at the same time, and ahead of due process only two days away.”
Lawyers who spoke on condition of anonymity, said it was going to be difficult for Chamisa to get his lawyers exempted.
“Maybe Gauntlet might have a chance of being registered, but the others, it’s probably too little too late. Section 2 describes a reciprocating country as one that has a statutory instrument issued after consultation with the Chief Justice and the Council for Legal Education. The statutory instrument must then be gazetted. It’s likely too late for this unless President Mnangagwa intervenes,” NewsDay heard.
In his address, Chamisa said it would be painful for the country to have to wait another five years, while alleging that there is generally lack of confidence both within and outside Zimbabwe.
He said besides the court challenge, they would also pursue a political route to ensure that their victory is protected.
“What is on trial is not Nelson Chamisa or the MDC Alliance.
“What is on trial is democracy, what is on trial is free and fair elections, what is on trial is a credible plebiscite and this is why we are very happy that we have constituted and configured together an A Team of experienced, tested and veteran legal experts drawn from the best legal minds in the region and in the country,” he said.
On reports that some international jurists are coming to observe the process, Chamisa said: “We welcome any kind of international spotlight and I have reached out to a number of countries and I have met with international diplomats, the EU [European Union] and the USA [United States] to try and sensitise them in the need for us to have a fair process in the country and I am happy with the support and solidarity we are getting. It is so exciting and encouraging.”
Chamisa urged his supporters to remain resolute and refuse to be cowed.
“We must not be intimidated by anymore. We are masters of our destiny and for that reason, we must defend our vote within the confines of peace, without being intimidated. Change doesn’t come easily,” he said.
“The darkest hour is near dawn and we know that we are going to go through the valleys of unhappiness, but ultimately the summit of victory is going to be reached and we are almost there.”
The youthful opposition leader said those in the rural areas were under Zanu PF captivity. He accused Zanu PF of acting like a terror group and intimidating people, particularly in the rural areas.
“For the past 38 years, people in the rural areas have been subjected to captivity and one wonders the behaviour of colleagues in Zanu PF is totally deplorable. They want to behave in a manner that al-Shabaab, al-Qaeda, Isis would behave — using terrorism as a way of mobilising consent in society and that is what they are doing in rural areas,” Chamisa said.
“Under normal circumstances, these organisations will have to be examined to see if it is a normal political party that is allowed in a democratic society because you cannot use violence, terror as a basis of organising society.”