By Kwekwe Correspondent
FORMER Kwekwe Central legislator Blessing Chebundo (MDC Alliance) has once again lost an election petition filed with the electoral court to unseat incumbent Masango Matambanadzo (National Patriotic Front).
In a repeat of the 2013 showdown between the two, Chebundo who had challenged Matambanadzo’s electoral victory then, had the petition thrown out for lack of merit.
Justice James Mabhikwa dismissed the petition with costs.
Chebundo is famed for being President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s tormentor after he beat the Zanu PF strongman in successive elections at the turn of the millennium in the gold mining Midlands city.
During the July 30 elections, the MDC veteran narrowly lost the vote with 7,127 against Matambanadzo’s 7,578.
In his founding affidavit Chebundo wanted Matambanadzo’s victory to be set aside citing “gross irregularities”.
Amongst other allegations, the former legislator alleged “Massive vote buying,” on the part of Matambanadzo. He claimed that the electorate had been given money and food handouts.
Chebundo submitted before the electoral court through his lawyer Tonderai Chitere that Matambanadzo used State resources for his campaign, citing an ambulance bought using Constituency Development Funds (CDF) during his tenure as Zanu PF member of the National assembly.
He further accused Matambanadzo of fraudulently misrepresenting himself to the electorate by constantly purporting to be working with MDC Alliance presidential candidate Nelson Chamisa.
However, Matamanadzo, through his lawyer Liberty Mashanyare, denied the allegations.
Handing over judgment last week Justice Mabhikwa who had reserved judgment in the matter dismissed the petition.
“I deliberately underlined the dates of the alleged massive vote buying took place. It shall be noted that they all allegedly took place well before the elections on 30 July 2018.
“For that reason, I asked the petitioner why they did not apply to the court for an interdict or even disqualification of the respondent right at the time the need rose than wait until voting was over and until they had lost the election, only to file a petition two weeks after such announcement of results,” Mabhikwa said.
The judge added, “Allegations of corrupt practices should be proved beyond reasonable doubt on the same high standard of proof as in criminal cases.
“In any case, in terms of 171 of Electoral Act, once disputes of fact arise in an election petition as was the case in the current one, the electoral court may be turned into a trail, court.”
On the issue of vote buying the judge indicated that if Chebundo’s case is anything to go by, the reliability of the alleged voters is questionable.
The reliability of such alleged voters who change allegiance to their candidate merely by (being given) $10 or a packet of rice (is questionable). In fact, one wonders whether such voters are worth voting in the first place.
“The deponents to the affidavits relied on by the petitioner do not state whether, after being ‘bought’ or misled, they still went on to vote, and if they did, they do not say they then voted for the respondent instead of the petitioner.”
The court added that the grounds upon which the petition was based are vague and general complaints which do not state in precise terms the actual and material effect in which the alleged acts of malpractices affected the election.
“The court finds that the alleged corrupt practices cannot be said to have been proved beyond reasonable doubt.
The petitioner begs this Honourable Court to waste its time pondering on his alleged supporters who are unduly timid and gullible to the extent that they probably do not even know him and listen to anyone telling them any parable about their candidate,” he said.
On the case of using an ambulance, the court found nothing wrong with Matambanadzo’s action.
In any case the court noted Matambanadzo “was apparently an aspiring returning member of parliament.
“In the previous parliament he lobbied for and assisted the community to secure the ambulance. It is a public facility, yes; however, what is wrong with an aspiring returning candidate whose efforts in the last parliament saw the constituency receiving a clinic built for them by the Government.
“Why cannot the candidate point the electorate to the clinic and say, ‘you remember last time you voted me, and I secured a clinic which you all see. If you vote me again, I will do more things for you.”
The judge continued; “In my view it is pure campaign and no malpractices there.
“The candidate is simply assuring the electorate that he is a man with accountability, who keeps his promises to deliver and uses state funds responsibly.
“The election petition is dismissed with costs of suit.”