ZEC candidate court challenge political: Mkandla

An independent candidate, cited as one of the respondents in a case where twelve registered voters in Bulawayo seeking the nullification of the candidature of those they alleged registered after the cutoff time on nomination day last month, has said the case is nothing but a game of smoke and mirrors by the ruling Zanu PF or ‘disgruntled’ opposition members.

Dr Strike Mkandla, independent candidate for the Mpopoma -Mzilikazi constituency seat, said the legal challenge against him and other candidates were most likely intended to eliminate serious competition in the August 23 elections.

This comes after 12 registered voters in Bulawayo filed urgent chamber petitions in the city’s High Court, requesting that some opposition candidates’ candidacies be declared null and void for allegedly filing nomination papers after the 4 pm Nomination Court deadline on June 21, 2023.

The Nomination Court convened on June 21, 2023, to receive papers from aspiring candidates, and the complainants say that the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) sat the next day to accommodate certain aspiring candidates who had failed to file their papers on time.

Candidates from multiple parties, including Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC), ZAPU, Free Zim Congress, and the Zimbabwe African National Congress (ZANC), as well as an independent.

Rachel Dube, a registered voter in the Mpopoma-Mzilikazi constituency, submitted the application through her lawyers Cheda and Cheda Associates under case number HC 1362/23.

Dube cited ZEC, its chairperson Justice Priscilla Chigumba, ZEC Bulawayo Provincial Elections Officer, Innocent Ncube who presided over the Nomination Court for MP candidates at Tredgold in Bulawayo, Desmond Makaza (CCC candidate), Zwikwete Innocent Mbano (ZANC) and Dr Mkandla (independent candidate) as the respondents. 

In an interview with CITE, Dr Mkandla dismissed allegations that he submitted his papers late as he did so on time. 

“My team was early and I even had time for a press interview around 11 am in the hallway, that will tell you how early I was. There were three of us making sure my position in the U-shaped queue was maintained by taking turns. In spite of the long line we had ample time to continue after the lunch adjournment of the Court.  Before closure I was called into the Court,” he said.

Mkandla claimed he actually started the nomination process before June 21.

“I  can tell you something more interesting. The previous day when we were collecting more papers at ZEC some of the papers had even run out and I was the one who went to run and make copies for other candidates. I actually helped capture copies so that candidates would find the papers towards the end of June 20,” he said.

“Therefore, we were with the process from June 20 at ZEC, so we couldn’t possibly miss the deadline.”

Mkandla said on the actual nomination day, there were a large number of people present, and the procedure was smooth before becoming “chaotic.”

“The space outside the court was a bit cramped but it was orderly,” he said, noting that he went inside the courtroom about 15 to 20 minutes before 4pm.

“After this there was a scramble from people pushing to submit papers before and after the cut-off.” 

Dr Mkandla mentioned two possibilities that could have resulted in this legal action.

“It is possible that the concocted case is connected to Zanu PF people pushing to eliminate any serious competition in the constituency. But at the same time there are divisions in the opposition which may be driving the attack for their local politics. Either way it is ironic that ZEC is drawn in when the mayhem at nominations was a making of confusion in the crafting of party lists,” he said.

He said slightly after half past 3, ZEC called for candidates holding onto their nomination papers on the queue to hand them in since 4pm was approaching.

“That time, I was by the door. ZEC was taking people in batches of nine. Before they made that call, our batch of papers was already in. We were the next batch that went in before the paper submission was  closed,” Dr Mkandla said.

According to Dr Mkandla, it seems conceivable that unhappy CCC members were attempting to disadvantage each other with this lawsuit, rather than Zanu PF.

“Party lists didn’t come on time and when it did there were some people who were in who shouldn’t be in according to them. So there was a lot of chaos. I now think there’s going to be mayhem in that party as people who worked hard for years were left out when it came to nominations,” he claimed.

The independent candidate stated ZEC was “working normally actually” but it was towards the end when problems came.

“Some of the papers came late as party lists had huge numbers of people who were late who should have submitted or arranged their papers on June 20 but did so until a few minutes to 4pm. Some of them were now looking for blank papers to fill and that caused problems,” he said.

Meanwhile Dr Mkandla said his campaign was moving well, although he started “a bit late.”

“But we are catching up fast. We are now finalising our polling agents and materials, there are  a lot of nitty gritties which we know from previous elections that we need to do,” he said.

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