THE Zimbabwe Union of Journalists was last Friday humiliated when its application to be considered for special voting was dismissed by the Constitutional Court for lack of merit.In a brief comic hearing that left the court in stitches, Chief Justice Godfrey Chidyausiku had to ask ZUJ lawyer Mr Rodgers Matsikidze whether there was still any need for a full judgment of the decision in light of the glaring reasons.
“Do you still need reasons for this ruling after the debate we have just heard with you?”
Mr Matsikidze insisted that he still wanted the judgment and the court undertook to avail the judgment in due course.
Journalists who had attended the case left the courtroom one-by-one when the matter began to crumble. Those who endured the seven-minutes in the gallery bowed their heads in embarrassment.
It was the court’s finding that ZUJ ought not to have filed the application considering that their argument was similar to that of some Zimbabweans in the Diaspora who recently lost an application for postal voting.
ZUJ cited discrimination in Section 81 of the Electoral Act, which entitles civil servants only to special ballot.
Chief Justice Chidyausiku said the same section, in the diaspora case, was declared to be constitutional and that ZUJ could have been guided by the decision of that case before seeking to strike it down in its own application.
Justice Paddington Garwe brought lighter moments to the courtroom as he asked Mr Matsikidze to justify why journalists should be treated differently from other important workers who would be on duty on July 31.
“If journalists are allowed to vote by special ballot, what happens to doctors, nurses, ambulance drivers, train drivers or even kombi drivers who will be on duty on July 31?
“How different are journalists from kombi drivers in terms of their right to vote?” asked Justice Garwe.
Mr Matsikidze insisted that the electoral law discriminated against journalists because they would be deployed throughout the country to cover elections on July 31 the same way as the security forces and the Zec officials operate.
He argued that the journalists deserved the same special treatment because they were mandated to cover the election and would be out of their constituencies.
However, a paid up ZUJ member Phyllis Kachere questioned the rationale behind the application when the special vote had already been conducted.
“This is just a ploy by the out-going leadership to hoodwink scribes ahead of the ZUJ elections. If they were sincere about this, they would have approached the court a long time ago,” said Kachere.
She added: “They would have also made representations during the Copac outreach so that it would have been provided for in the new constitution. Chickens are coming home to roost. Let’s go to the ZUJ elections and they will see we cannot be duped.”
Another scribe who spoke on condition of anonymity said ZUJ did not consult its members before filing the application.
“We do not understand what they sought to achieve by making that unreasonable and pathetic application.
“We just read about the application in the papers when they should have approached us.
“They are now putting our profession into disrepute as if we are people who did not attain basic education,” he said.