Morgan Tsvangirai wedding halted by Zimbabwe court

Zimbabwean Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai (L) and his partner Elizabeth Macheka in Canberra, Australia - 23 July 2012
Image caption Morgan Tsvangirai's fiancee accompanied him on a recent visit to Australia

A court in Zimbabwe has blocked Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai's lavish wedding planned for Saturday, ruling he is already married.

Earlier this week, a high court judge said Locadia Tembo's customary marriage to Mr Tsvangirai was not legal.

But now a magistrate has agreed with her and ordered the wedding, which several heads of state were due to attend, to be put on hold.

Mr Tsvangirai's lawyers are seeking an urgent order to proceed with the event.

Also on Friday, they defeated another legal attempt to prevent the wedding - by Nozipho Shilubane from South Africa, who claims Mr Tsvangirai had promised to marry her.

Some analysts say the court cases bear all the hallmarks of a political dirty tricks campaign to smear the reputation of Mr Tsvangirai ahead of next year's elections, in which he is due to challenge President Robert Mugabe.

But others say he only has himself to blame as he has been involved with a number of women since his wife died in a car crash soon after he became prime minister in 2009.

Maintenance demand

President Mugabe, who is in a fractious coalition with Mr Tsvangirai, is due to attend Saturday's wedding to Elizabeth Macheka, 35, the daughter of a local politician from Mr Mugabe's Zanu-PF party.

The BBC's Brian Hungwe in the capital, Harare, says the ceremony had been set to take place in an upmarket area north of Harare.

Mr Mugabe is due to host a post-wedding banquet for other heads of state who will be there, he says.

Mr Tsvangirai, 59, and Mr Mugabe, 88, are expected to run against each other in presidential elections, due next year.

"The marriage licence that had been issued to the premier has been cancelled," Ms Tembo's lawyer, Everson Samkange, said after the magistrate's latest ruling.

"If he goes ahead with the wedding, he will be committing bigamy," he said, according to the AFP news agency.

Ms Tembo, 39, a commodity trader and sister of a Zanu-PF MP, had demanded $15,000 (£9,310) a month in maintenance expenses from the prime minister.

In November, Ms Tembo and Mr Tsvangirai reportedly held a traditional wedding, and Mr Tsvangirai had paid a bride price of several hundred thousand dollars.

Shortly thereafter, Mr Tsvangirai said their relationship had been "irretrievably damaged" after it was "hijacked" by his opponents, including state security agents.

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