No by-elections Until Independent Commission

BY-ELECTIONS to fill close to 15 vacancies in parliament will only be held after a new independent electoral commission is in place, sources in Zanu PF and the two MDC formations revealed this week.

A senior MDC-T official told the Zimbabwe Independent that the delay in holding the by-elections was deliberate to ensure that the elections are conducted by the new independent electoral body, whose selection is yet to be done.

No dates have been set for interviewing candidates to the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission.

“We are waiting for the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission to be put in place before the by-elections are held,” he said “How can we have by-elections when there is no body to conduct those elections? So the by-elections will only be held when the new ZEC is in place — elections cannot be conducted by the biased old ZEC.”

This was also confirmed by a senior Zanu PF official, who said the process of selecting election commissioners was likely to take more than three months.

Some of the seats in both the Senate and the House of Assembly have been vacant for more than a year.

The delay by President Robert Mugabe in calling for the by-elections is, however, in breach of the Electoral Act and the Constitution of Zimbabwe.

According to Section 39 of the Electoral Act, the Speaker or the president of the senate is supposed to notify the state president as soon as possible after he/she becomes aware of a vacancy.

The state president then publishes a notice in the Government Gazette within 14 days after he has been notified of the vacancy ordering a new election to fill the seat.

A nomination court of candidates would sit not less than 14 days or more than 21 days after the publication of the proclamation. An election date would then be set not less than 28 days and not more than 50 days after the nomination of candidates.

Constitutional lawyer Lovemore Madhuku said Mugabe was answerable for the delay and can be taken to court for breaching the Electoral Act and the country’s supreme law.

The other option, he said, would be to accuse him of misconduct and impeach him.

Madhuku dismissed claims by the political parties that ZEC was dissolved by Amendment No 19.

Contrary to that assertion, he said the amendment only outlined a new selection process of commissioners.

“The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission remains in place until another one is constituted. So it is not true that ZEC was dissolved,” he said.

ZEC chairperson Justice George Chiweshe said this week the commission did not have enough money to hold by-elections, indicating that the polls were not going to be held any time soon.

This, a Zanu PF politburo member said, was meant to delay the by-elections.

Senate seats to be filled include Gokwe South, Chiredzi, Chegutu, Gokwe-Chirumhanzu. House of Assembly constituencies that are vacant include Matobo North, Bindura North, Mutare North, Guruve North and Emakhandeni-Entumbane.

Recently, three vacancies arose following the expulsion from the MDC formation led by Professor Arthur Mutambara of Norman Mpofu (Bulilima East), Abednico Bhebhe (Nkayi South) and Njabuliso Mguni (Lupane East).

Several MDC-T members have pending cases in the courts and if they are all convicted and sentenced to more than six months imprisonment, the number of by-elections due could rise to more than 30.

The three parties that signed the Global Political Agreement cannot contest each other in any by-election until after September 15.

An extension of this was now highly unlikely, a senior MDC-T official said this week.

Faith Zaba