Failed election court challenge leaves Chamisa with hefty legal bill

Zimbabwe's main opposition leader Nelson Chamisa speaks during an interview at his offices in Harare. File picture: Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi/AP
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HARARE – Zimbabwe’s opposition MDC Alliance leader Nelson Chamisa may have to fork out more than R42 million to meet the costs of his election outcome challenge he launched and lost at the country’s Constitutional Court.

Chamisa sought to overturn president-elect Emmerson Mnangagwa’s July 30 election victory, but the ConCourt unanimously dismissed his challenge with costs.

But the figure may even rise if Chamisa’s next course of action – appealing to a higher court – takes off.

Chamisa’s legal team is reported to be lodging a petition with The African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR).

The lawyers are seeking to challenge the decision made by the Constitutional Court, alleging that it violates the universal human rights of the people of Zimbabwe.

Chamisa has refused to accept the decision by the Constitutional Court to dismiss his election petition with costs.

Zanu-PF Secretary for Legal Affairs Paul Mangwana said the ruling party’s lawyers were quantifying the exact amount due to them, but they had indicated an approximate bill of more than R42 million.

That figure excludes the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission’s legal bill.

“Lawyers charge according to the number of hours they spend on a case. You will appreciate that a humongous amount of hours were spent on this case because of its high profile nature and also because of the need to ensure that everything was on point,” Mnangwana said.

Mangwana said the final bill required approval of the registrar of the court.

“The amount has to be in line with the prescribed rates which lawyers charge. Such rates are approved by the registrar of courts who also has to grant the approval. The amount will also undergo the necessary taxation processes,” he said.

Mangwana said in the event Chamisa failed to pay, the opposition leader risked losing his personal property.

“What the ruling means is that Zanu-PF doesn’t have to pay, it is Chamisa who has to pay our lawyers. The law says if he doesn’t pay, we will have to attach his personal property.

‘‘This law is made to guard against people who approach the courts with cases that are not of any substance,” he said.

Chief Justice Luke Malaba announced the ConCourt’s unanimous decision thus: “It is not for the court to decide elections, it is the people. It is a duty of the courts to strive in public interest to sustain that which the people have expressed their will in.

“Therefore their application ought to be dismissed. In the result, the following order is made. The application is dismissed with costs.”

Chamisa’s stated grounds for petitioning the ACHPR are flagrant and multiple violations of the universal human rights of the voters and people of Zimbabwe by the current Zimbabwean regime and the Constitutional Court, including: the right to free and fair elections; the right to a fair hearing before an impartial court; the right to legal representation by counsel of choice; the right against undue political interference; and the right to be governed by a legitimate government.

Aggrieved African parties and citizens may only approach the ACHPR after internal domestic legal steps have been exhausted.

Judgments of the Constitutional Court of Zimbabwe cannot be appealed in Zimbabwe, as it is a court of last instance.

Available remedies at the ACHPR include declarations of human rights violations and more importantly restitution; which means the restoration of the victim parties and citizens to the original position before the violations.

The petition will pray and ask for a declaration that the result of the presidential election was a legal nullity.

If the African Commission makes findings that are different from the Concourt judgment, those findings will not reverse the judgment of the Concourt, however, said one legal expert.

“The African Comm is a quasi-judicial body and it makes recommendations (not judgments) which are not in themselves legally binding upon the State concerned.

“So the move by the MDC will at best generate recommendations which can be useful in pushing ahead the debate for electoral reforms,” said Kinstone Mutambo, a lawyer in private practice in the capital.

 African News Agency (ANA)