Chi­wenga poll ban takes new twist

The Standard (Zimbabwe) - - Front Page - BY MOSES MATENGA

Par­lia­ment is back­track­ing on its stance that Vice-Pres­i­dent Con­stantino Chi­wenga’s sus­pen­sion of by-elec­tions to fill va­cant par­lia­men­tary and mu­nic­i­pal seats was con­sti­tu­tional, say­ing the pro­nounce­ment was a mis­take.

Ja­cob Mu­denda, the Na­tional Assem­bly speaker, last week an­nounced that Statu­tory In­stru­ment 225A of 2020, is­sued by Chi­wenga a fort­night ago sus­pend­ing by-elec­tions as long as Covid-19 re­mained a “for­mi­da­ble pan­demic”, was un­con­sti­tu­tional.

The speaker was, how­ever, singing from a dif­fer­ent hymn book in an in­ter­view with The

Stan­dard where he in­sisted that the Par­lia­men­tary Le­gal Com­mit­tee was yet to re­view the con­tentious statu­tory in­stru­ment.

Mu­denda said the com­mit­tee was only likely to come up with a po­si­tion on the statu­tory in­stru­ment in two weeks’ time.

“There are three statu­tory in­stru­ments that the Par­lia­men­tary Le­gal Com­mit­tee is yet to con­sider so they did not pro­nounce them­selves as to whether they were ad­verse or non-ad­verse,” he said.

“We ex­plained that later on be­cause there was con­fu­sion. It ap­peared as if the statu­tory in­stru­ment had re­cieved an ad­verse re­port from the Par­lia­men­tary Le­gal Com­mit­tee. That was ex­plained,” Mu­denda said.

“That statu­tory in­stru­ment and two oth­ers are still to be re­viewed by the Par­lia­men­tary Le­gal Com­mit­tee and they will meet prob­a­bly in the next two weeks to pro­nounce their le­gal opin­ion.”

Mu­denda had told Par­lia­ment that the com­mit­tee had met and re­viewed the statu­tory in­stru­ment and found it to be un­con­sti­tu­tional.

“The com­mit­tee is of the opin­ion that the statu­tory in­stru­ments gazetted in the month of Oc­to­ber are not in con­tra­ven­tion of the Dec­la­ra­tion of Rights or any other pro­vi­sions of the Con­sti­tu­tion of Zim­babwe ex­cept for the fol­low­ing statu­tory in­stru­ments:- Statu­tory In­stru­ment 224 of 2020; Statu­tory In­stru­ment 225 of 2020 and Statu­tory In­stru­ment 225(a) of 2020. These three were not com­pli­ant with the con­sti­tu­tion,” Mu­denda said.

The statu­tory in­stru­ment is­sued by Chi­wenga, who dou­bles up as Health and Child Care min­is­ter, was dis­missed as un­con­sti­tu­tional by le­gal ex­perts.

A group of cit­i­zens and the Elec­tions Re­source Cen­tre have since ap­proached the High Court seek­ing the re­ver­sal of the sus­pen­sion of the polls.

The Zim­babwe Hu­man Rights Com­mis­sion last week crit­i­cised the sus­pen­sion of the polls, say­ing it was not con­sis­tent with demo­cratic prin­ci­ples.

The Zim­babwe Elec­toral Com­mis­sion (Zec) last month said there would be by­elec­tions on De­cem­ber 5 to fill over 80 mu­nic­i­pal seats and nearly 30 par­lia­men­tary seats left va­cant af­ter Thokozani Khupe’s MDC-T re­called MDC Al­liance mem­bers that re­fused to dump Nel­son Chamisa.

Af­ter the ban, Zec ac­cepted the names of Khupe and 14 oth­ers that had been nom­i­nated by the MDC-T in­terim leader to re­place Chamisa’s re­called pro­por­tional rep­re­sen­ta­tion MPs, which gave way to their swear­ing-in, in Par­lia­ment on Oc­to­ber 7.

But de­spite the ban, Zanu PF has been con­duct­ing pri­mary elec­tions through­out the coun­try in prepa­ra­tion for the by-elec­tions.

Le­gal ex­perts say the ban does not hold wa­ter be­cause Covid-19 cases have been on a de­cline in Zim­babwe.

The coun­try has sig­nif­i­cantly opened up af­ter a na­tional lock­down was im­posed in March to slow down the spread of the virus.

Speaker of Par­lia­ment Ja­cob Mu­denda

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