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  • Zimbabwe's Elections 2013 - Index of Articles

  • Mayoral elections and Zimbabwe's legislative I Ching
    Derek Matyszak, Senior Researcher, Research & Advocacy Unit (RAU)
    October 29, 2013

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    Zimbabwe’s legislative architecture, never particularly elegant, is becoming increasingly ramshackle. Legislation pertaining to the “indigenisation” of business in Zimbabwe probably leads this heavily contested field. Many of the provisions in this regard are simply legal gibberish and most are not authorised by superior legislation, with Government Notices issued which are ultra vires (beyond the powers granted by) the Regulations, Regulations ultra vires the enabling Act of Parliament, and the Act of Parliament itself of dubious constitutional validity. The Electoral Act has joined this ignominious array, after Mugabe claimed that the Presidential Powers (Temporary Measures) Act allowed him to unilaterally set the rules for a poll in which he was a contestant and to thus introduce amendments to the Act. These amendments, themselves of questionable legality, were introduced in haste, without the kind of careful scrutiny which ought to precede the passage of Bills through the parliamentary process. The result is an Act with contradictory provisions, cross references to sections, which were clearly intended to be key, but which have been inadvertently omitted and portions which are redundant.

    This situation has been exacerbated by the adoption of a new Constitution for Zimbabwe, not only because the provisions of several Acts of Parliament are now subject to constitutional challenge, but also because of the absence of statutes, and the required insertion into extant laws of amending provisions, which ought to have been introduced before the Constitution became effective, but were not. As a result, the interpretation of statutes has become more akin to divination than jurisprudence. And when staring at the statutory entrails that purport to be legislation, like the Greek oracles before them, the door is open to judges and policy makers to divine meaning more from an astute understanding of political currents, rather than that which is ostensibly under examination.

    Such theatre recently obtained when determining the manner in which mayors ought to be appointed for the newly-elected municipal councils. Initially, it appeared as if this issue would mark the first exchange of fire between the Zanu-PF Minister of Local Government, Ignatius Chombo, and the MDC-T on what is now likely to be the main terrain of battle between Zanu-PF and the opposition - the municipal authority of the cities of Bulawayo, Harare and Chitungwiza. This is the locus of the sole vestige of power retained by MDC-T after the July 2013 election. However, after an application (which sought to counter a directive from the Ministry of Local Government on mayoral appointments) brought by the MDC-T to the High Court was dismissed on procedural grounds by Justice Bere (who ruled that the matter “was not urgent” and thus could not be heard) the MDC-T retreated and accepted the position of the Ministry on mayoral appointments.

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