Exiled Zimbabwean businessman seeks to bar Ramaphosa from South African elections over controversial Zimbabwean law

Exiled Zimbabwean businessman Mutumwa Mawere has launched a legal challenge in South African courts seeking to prevent President Cyril Ramaphosa from contesting the upcoming 2024 general elections. 

At the heart of Mawere’s case lies the controversial Zimbabwean Reconstruction of State-Indebted Insolvent Companies Act, under which he lost ownership of his Shabanie Mashava Mines (SMM) Holdings, formerly a leading asbestos producer.

The Act was enacted following a commercial dispute that spilled into South African courts, where SMM was found liable for unpaid debts to a South African company, Petter Trading (Pvt) Limited.

Mawere alleges that the Zimbabwean government, then led by then Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa, responded to the Johannesburg Court ruling by enacting the Act, effectively seizing his assets without due process.

“The applicant seeks to preserve the integrity of legal proceedings in relation to all judgments sought and granted by this court… involving a reconstruction decree that was promulgated in Zimbabwe using State of emergency law making powers,” Mawere states in his application.

Mawere argues that recognizing and enforcing claims based on this law raises serious questions about “public policy, international law, ethical, jurisdictional, criminal, corruption and constitutional concerns.”

He emphasizes the urgency of the case, citing the “ab initio” doctrine, which suggests that if Ramaphosa’s conduct is deemed invalid from the outset, his participation in the 2024 elections would be unlawful.

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