Markham files Supreme Court appeal
HARARE North opposition lawmaker Allan Markham has filed a Supreme Court appeal after his request for the release of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) electronic voters’ roll was blocked by the High Court.
High Court Justice Never Katiyo recently blocked the release of the electronic voters’ roll, citing security reasons.
Critics claimed that this reflects lack of democracy in Zimbabwe as the 2023 general elections draw closer.
Katiyo ruled that the voters’ roll is a sensitive document which should not be dished out carelessly.
Markham sued Zec after it refused to give him an electronic copy he wanted to use in scrutinising the trends in the delimitation report which was recently gazetted.
Markham mounted the lawsuit last year after having written to Zec giving it an ultimatum to release the report within seven days.
His letter was not responded to prompting court action.
Katiyo ruled that Markham failed to justify why he needed the document, adding that he could pursue other remedies.
The judge also ruled that it was in the best interests of justice if Zec remains the custodian of the document as it is prone to manipulation if it finds its way into the public domain.
In his appeal, Markham wants the court to declare that Zec is obliged to provide him with the electronic voters’ roll.
He also wants the court to declare that the refusal and/or failure by Zec to furnish him with a copy of the national voters’ roll in electronic form as requested is unlawful.
He submitted that the lower court had erred in finding that his application was premature when Zec had refused to provide the voters’ roll in electronic form as per his request and failed to indicate when it was going to do so.
“The court a quo grossly misdirected itself in holding that the matter was prematurely before the court, when the respondent had refused to provide the voters’ roll in electronic form as per the appellant’s request and failed to indicate when it was going to do so.
“The court a quo erred in holding that the appellant had alternative remedies to pursue in order to get the voters’ roll in electronic form when the Electoral Act (Chapter 2:15) provides no such other remedies.
“The court a quo erred in failing to find that the respondent’s failure to provide a time period within which it was going to provide appellant with the voters’ roll in electronic form amounted to a refusal to provide the voters’ roll in violation of section 21 (3) of the Electoral Act Chapter 2:15.
“The court a quo misinterpreted Section 21 (7) of the Electoral Act [Chapter 2:15] to be applicable, so as to allow respondent to indefinitely withhold the provision, to the appellant, of the voters’ roll in electronic form,” reads part of his appeal.
Markham said the High Court also erred in considering the irrelevant evidence of Team Pachedu.
The lawmaker approached the courts last year after Zec refused to give him an electronic version of the voters’ roll.
He argued that this was in contravention of the Electoral Act.
Markham said the electoral commission had an obligation to release the voters’ roll, adding it is his right not only as a legislator but also as a voter to have access to the roll.
In his founding affidavit, Markham told the court that he had received an electronic copy of the roll prepared by the commission before the by-elections that took place in March 2022.
When he analysed the copy, he realised that there were several anomalies, prompting him to write to Zec drawing its attention to the problem.
The commission had then advised him that it was in the process of formatting the system and producing an updated version.