Chombo Should Stop Frustrating Elected Officials

ALLOW me to air my views on what has become an increasingly disturbing trait on the part of Dr Ignatious Chombo from the time he was Minister of Local Government to date.

 

This is the man whose claim to fame is the destruction of the right of ordinary Zimbabweans to political participation –– their inalienable right to participate in the governance of their country and indeed local authorities –– by electing their chosen representatives through the ballot or even standing for that office.
Chombo made a joke of this basic right by his repetitive abuse of the Urban Councils Act and removal of elected councils and replacing them with commissions since the time he removed Engineer Elias Mudzuri.
My advice to him is to take a very cursory glance at Section 3 of our Electoral Act [Chapter 2:01].  Chombo needs no legal training or even the wise counsel of his army of legal advisors to discern the clear and unambiguous meaning of this provision. It reads and I quote: “General principles of democratic elections subject to the Constitution and this Act, every election shall be conducted in way that is consistent with the following principles:
(a) the authority to govern derives from the will of the people demonstrated through elections that are conducted efficiently, freely, fairly, transparently and properly on the basis of universal and equal suffrage exercised through a secret ballot;  and
(b) every citizen has the right;
(i) to participate in government directly or through freely chosen representatives, and is entitled, without distinction on the ground of race, ethnicity, gender, language, political or religious belief, education, physical appearance or disability or economic or social condition, to stand for office and cast a vote freely;
(ii) to join or participate in the activities of and to recruit members of a political party of his or her choice;
(iii) to participate in peaceful political activity intended to influence the composition and policies of government;
(iv) to participate, through civic organisations, in peaceful activities to influence and challenge the policies of government;
(c) every political party has the right‹
(i)  to operate freely within the law;
(ii) to put up or sponsor one or more candidates in every election;
(iii) to campaign freely within the law;
(iv)  to have reasonable access to the media.”
After meddling in the affairs of councils elected by the people of Zimbabwe and likely having failed to formally conduct induction sessions for the newly-elected councillors Chombo now seeks to monopolise a function that he has proven to be either unwilling or unable to perform.
It is sad that he would seek to interfere in the functions of council in this manner over and above his track record of dissolving them unilaterally on unfounded claims of mismanagement. This could very well be a sign that he intends for the new councils the same fate that he subjected previous ones to in Harare and other cities.
Someone should remind Chombo that it is not his prerogative to prescribe the conduct of NGOs. The last time I checked, the Private Voluntary Organisations Act [Chapter 17:05] is administered by the Minister of Labour and Social Welfare. Has Chombo assumed office at this ministry?
Over and above that the only provision in this equally contentious piece of legislation which purported to give the Minister of Labour and Social Welfare –– note not the Minister of Local Government –– power to prescribe NGO activities, Section 21 was struck down by the Constitutional Court of Zimbabwe as far back as 1997 in the case of Sekai Holland and Others vs the Minister of Public Service, Labour and Social welfare on account of its allowing such unilateral conduct by the minister of suspending NGO operations without affording them an opportunity to be heard or to make representations.
Put simply no government official, institution or court has the power to determine the extent of another’s civil rights and obligations without affording the person or body to be affected an opportunity to be heard.  Chombo would do well to learn from the decision above which struck down s.21 of the PVO Act.
That said it is submitted that the purported decree by Chombo is a laughable legal nullity and represents a futile attempt to usurp the right of Zimbabweans to political participation as envisaged by s.3 of the Electoral Act cited above.
It is an affront to both the councillor (and mayors) and the people who voted them into office. The councillors and people who voted them into office should fight this ludicrous attempt by Chombo with all the legal arsenal at their disposal.

Tafadzwa R Mugabe,
 tmugabe@nd.edu