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not to hold by-elections - Bill Watch 20/2009
June 13, 2009
Deadline for Applications for Appointment to Constitutional Commissions
June is the last day for submission of applications to Parliament
by persons wishing to be considered for appointment to one or other
of the four Constitutional Commissions.
Parliamentary Vacancies – By Elections Long Overdue
There are already
7 vacancies in constituency seats in Parliament [4 in the House
of Assembly; 3 in the Senate], all dating back to 2008 [for details
see Bill Watch Special of 17th May on By-Elections]. The President
should have gazetted proclamations specifying the dates on which
nomination courts will sit and the dates when voting will take place
if necessary, i.e., if two or more candidates are nominated. These
are long overdue – under section 39 of the Electoral
Act a by-election proclamation must be gazetted within 14 days
of the President receiving notification of a vacancy. Parliament
has stated that all vacancies were promptly notified to the President’s
Office. A recent newspaper report stated that it was up to ZEC to
set the by-election procedure in motion, but that is not so. ZEC
has to wait for the proclamations to be gazetted by the President.
[Note: This is not a matter in which the President is free to act
as he thinks fit; he must act in accordance with Cabinet advice.
So the inclusive government as a whole is responsible for these
these delays in holding by-elections?
has put forward no satisfactory explanation for its failure to call
the by-elections – in spite of the fact that this has left
the constituencies concerned without representation in Parliament
for many months, in breach of the Electoral Act and of the constitutional
rights of the voters in those constituencies. The law is absolutely
clear that these vacancies should have been filled. If the Electoral
Act’s requirements for calling by-elections are not complied
with, the High Court can order compliance, provided an interested
party takes the trouble to go to court; that happened in Bulawayo
last year when a by-election was unduly delayed.
There is a worry
that waiting for the vacancies resulting from existing MPs being
appointed as new provincial governors [end of August, see below]
will be another reason put forward for further delays. If by-elections
are delayed till mid-September, this would raise the spectre of
election violence. The IPA
tried to put a moratorium of 12 months on election violence. In
Article 21 the three parties declared their awareness of the “divisive
and often times confrontational nature of elections and by-elections”,
noted the need to allow the IPA to take root amongst the parties
and the people, and recognized the need to give people breathing
space and a healing period. They accordingly agreed that for a period
of 12 months from the signing of the IPA [which period expires on
15th September] should any electoral vacancy arise, “only
the party holding that seat prior to the vacancy occurring shall
be entitled to nominate and field a candidate to fill the seat”.
[Note: this does not rule out by-elections, it is merely an agreement
that the three parties will not field candidates against each other
– only the party previously holding the seat will field a
why by-elections should be held promptly is that the MDC majority
in the House of Assembly is very tenuous and it has already been
reduced. The nearer the MDCs come to losing their majority and ZANU-PF
to gaining a majority, the more violent by-elections are likely
to be if postponed. The by-elections should be held now while there
is a moratorium on the three parties of the IPA competing against
by-elections wait for a new election commission?
No – this
is going to take a long time to put into place and, to reiterate,
it is illegal to wait. And, as pointed out above, waiting could
result in a more violent election environment. Any new Commission
would be operating with existing electoral statutes and administrative
structures and existing personnel until the whole system is overhauled.
It is certainly
hoped that the new Electoral Commission will be functioning, and
will have facilitated the reform of the Electoral Act and the reform
of the whole electoral apparatus [including its de-militarisation
and de-politicisation], before the holding of the Referendum on
the new Constitution and the General Elections expected to coincide
with the introduction of the new Constitution.
reported from different parties, it is likely that the final division
of governorships agreed on will be MDC 5, ZANU-PF 4, MDC-M 1. But
the new governors will not be sworn in until towards the end of
August when the departing governors will have served one year of
their two-year contracts. [Roy Bennett’s swearing-in as Deputy
Minister will be postponed until the new governors are sworn in.]
The allocations per party and province will be:
Mashonaland Central [Martin Dinha], Mashonaland East [Aeneas Chigwedere],
Mashonaland West [Faber Chidarikire] and Midlands [Jaison Machaya]
[These are all already Governors.]
- MDC-T: Bulawayo
[Seiso Moyo], Harare [James Makore], Manicaland [Julius Magaramombe],
Masvingo [Lucia Matibenga], and Matabeleland North [Tose Sansole].
[MDC-T has nominated its new Governors.]
- MDC-M: Matabeleland
South. [To be nominated.]
Ginyilitshe Mathema [Bulawayo], David Karimanzira [Harare], Christopher
Mushowe [Manicaland], Titus Maluleke [Masvingo], Thokozile Mathuthu
[Matabeleland North] and Angeline Masuku [Matabeleland South]
in Parliament of Changes in Provincial Governorships
governors are ex officio members of the Senate, the changes will
affect party strengths in the Senate. Assuming that the governorship
question really has been finalised, ZANU-PF will lose 6 seats while
MDC-T will gain 5 seats and MDC-M 1. In addition, as four of the
five MDC governors-designate are already Parliamentarians [3 in
the House of Assembly and 1 an elected Senator] they will relinquish
their constituency seats in order to take up their ex officio seats,
causing another four vacancies [3 in the House of Assembly and 1
in the Senate] to be filled by by-elections. [MDC-M has not yet
named a governor-designate, so it is not known if their nominee
will be from outside Parliament or from the Senate or the House
impact will be on party numbers in the Senate. Numbers of elected
Senators are fairly even at present: ZANU-PF 30, MDC-T 24 and MDC-M
6, giving the combined MDCs 30. Of nominated and ex officio Senators
ZANU-PF has 16 [which will change to 10], MDC-T 4 [which will change
to 9] and MDC-M 2 [which will change to 3]; the combined MDCs have
6 [which will go up to 12]. Assuming that the MDCs will vote together,
this means that in the Senate ZANU-PF would only have a majority
if the chiefs [there are 18] vote with them, which has been traditional
while ZANU-PF was the governing party.
There are still
no Bills to be considered. The order papers [agendas] for both Houses
list only the uncompleted debates on the President's Speech at the
opening of Parliament last year and other motions carried forward
from the May sittings. It is hoped there is time to conclude debate
on important motions, e.g., in the House of Assembly – for
appointment of a select committee to investigate last year’s
election violence, and on the need for a transparent system for
distribution of agricultural inputs for the 2009-10 season; in the
Senate – on the need for a policy to harness the expertise
and resources of Zimbabweans in the Diaspora. These motions have
been carried forward for months.
it is Members’ Question Time in the House of Assembly and
there are twenty-nine questions down for reply by Ministers. There
include important questions that have been on the Order Paper since
March; it is to be hoped that this backlog can be cleared soon.
House of Assembly
Portfolio Committees will resume meeting on Monday 15th June. No
public hearings have been announced.
Committees have been decided on by the Committee on Standing Rules
and Orders. The members of the five committees will be announced
in the Senate on Tuesday.
Legal Committee has met once to elect the chairperson. There is
a year’s backlog of statutory instruments which the committee
has a constitutional obligation to examine for consistency with
the Constitution. It is hoped it will be able to commence this onerous
and urgent task soon. [If the committee considers a statutory instrument
to be inconsistent with the Constitution, it must report this to
the Senate; if the Senate agrees and is not overruled by the House
of Assembly, the President must then repeal the offending statutory
instrument. Standing Orders also require the committee to report
on statutory instruments that it considers to be ultra vires [outside
the scope of] their enabling Acts. So the longer this task is left
undone, the greater the possibility of unconstitutional or ultra
vires statutory instruments remaining on the books, to the detriment
of the members of the public affected by them, and this could lead
Bills: No new
Bills have been gazetted. Nor are there any Bills being printed.
The Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe Amendment Bill approved by Cabinet
recently has not yet been sent to Parliament for printing and gazetting.
Acts: The Appropriation
(2008) (Additional) Bill [passed by Parliament on 24th March] has
still not yet been gazetted as an Act.
Council Act (No. 3 of 2008) comes into operation on Monday 15th
June [date fixed by SI 84/2009].
SI 88/2009 [Companies (Alteration of Table of Fees) Notice] fixes
US dollar fees for registration of companies and other matters under
the Companies Act [effective from 12th June].
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