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Zimbabwe’s Tsvangirai Has Marriage Blocked on Protests

Sept. 14 (Bloomberg) -- Zimbabwe’s Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai had his scheduled marriage to Elizabeth Macheka tomorrow canceled by a court that ruled he had committed himself to another woman under customary law.

Tsvangirai, 60, has this week faced two law suits by women who say he cannot marry Macheka because he had married one and got engaged to the other. He says the actions are part of a political campaign to besmirch his reputation ahead of an election where he will be pitted against President Robert Mugabe, 88, to lead the country.

“The marriage certificate that had been issued to the premier has been canceled,” said Everson Samkange, the lawyer for Lorcadia Karimatsenda, also known as Karimatsenga Tembo, who says Tsvangirai married her under customary law last year. “If he goes ahead with the wedding he will be committing bigamy,” Samkange told reporters outside the court.

Tsvangirai and his Movement for Democratic Change party are set to compete against Mugabe and his Zimbabwe African National Union - Patriotic Front in elections that are due to follow a constitutional referendum, a date for which is yet to be set. Mediation by the 15-nation Southern African Development Community eased a decade-long political stalemate between Mugabe and Tsvangirai, forcing them into a temporary coalition government in 2009.

‘Honorable Comrades’

Tsvangirai’s wedding will go ahead, the MDC said in an e-mailed statement after the decision. The party “respectfully disagrees with this ruling,” it said. Tsvangirai’s lawyers “have taken this matter up on appeal,” according to the party.

“The claims are part of a grand political scheme to besmirch, to malign and to soil the image of the prime minister for political gain,” Luke Tamborinyoka, a spokesman for Tsvangirai, said in an e-mailed statement before today’s ruling in the Harare Magistrates Court.

Yesterday a South African woman, Nosipho Regina Shilubane, sought to block the marriage to Elizabeth Macheka by filing a suit at the Magistrates Court, saying that she became engaged to Tsvangirai after she met him in 2009, according to the court documents. That case was thrown out today, Tamborinyoka said in an interview.

“It’s absolutely hogwash to blame us or politics; it’s nonsense,” said Rugare Gumbo, a spokesman for Zanu-PF, in an interview. “He loves women. We really don’t do that. We are honorable comrades as a party.”

Tsvangirai will appeal against the cancellation later today or tomorrow morning, Thabani Mpofu, Tsvangirai’s lawyer, said outside the court.

Tsvangirai’s first wife, Susan, died in car crash in 2009.

To contact the reporter on this story: Godfrey Marawanyika in Harare at gmarawanyika@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Antony Sguazzin at asguazzin@bloomberg.net

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