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Election of new speaker - Bill Watch 11/2011
March 28, 2011
Will the Election of the New Speaker Take Place
this morning, Monday 28th March, the Clerk of Parliament told Veritas
he did not know when the election would be held. Rumour, however,
has it that it will take place tomorrow morning. Less than a day’s
notice would be unreasonable. As the parties will want all their
MPs to attend, reasonable notice should be given.
Role of the President
Constitution nor House
of Assembly Standing Orders require the date for the new election
of Speaker to be fixed by the President. The Clerk in his press
conference last Tuesday, contrary to a press report, did not
say that the date would be fixed by the President. Subsequently
the Clerk said he had written to the President to officially inform
him, as part of the legislature, of developments.
soon after the Supreme Court decision that its candidate would be
the unseated Speaker Lovemore Moyo.
Politburo met on Wednesday 23rd March and decided that party chairman
Simon Khaya Moyo would be its candidate. This decision was conveyed
to and adopted by the party’s parliamentary caucus.
MDC: the Welshman
Ncube-led MDC has said it will not be putting forward a candidate.
Both Moyos are eligible for election as Speaker - both are former
In terms of
the Standing Orders of the House the election must be conducted
by the Clerk of Parliament. As there are two or more candidates,
the election must be conducted by “a secret ballot”.
Only members of the House of Assembly can vote and the election
will be decided by a simple majority of the members present and
Lovemore Moyo be allowed to vote?
Within a few
days of the Supreme Court’s decision nullifying the Speaker’s
election, Clerk of Parliament Austin Zvoma made a statement that
Mr Lovemore Moyo could not revert to his pre-Speaker position as
MP for Matobo North. Mr Zvoma said his decision was on the grounds
that when an MP is voted in as Speaker the seat automatically becomes
available for a by-election and that the President had been informed
of the vacancy. [In fact the President had ignored the constitutional
imperative to call such a by-election.] There have been queries
whether it was within the powers of the Clerk to make such a ruling,
and it was made despite advice to the contrary from both the Attorney-General’s
Office, and also constitutional lawyer Lovemore Madhuku [electronic
version of Professor Madhuku’s opinion available]. Lawyers
for Lovemore Moyo lodged an urgent application in the High Court
for an order declaring him to be the MP for Matobo North on the
basis that if he had never been the lawfully elected Speaker, he
had never ceased to be the holder of the seat he had won in the
2008 election. As an MP he would be able to vote in the election
for a new Speaker. They withdrew the application as, in spite of
an request for a urgent hearing, it became clear that the case would
not be heard before the scheduled sitting of the House on Tuesday
22nd March, when the vote for Speaker was expected.
position is that on Friday 25th March Mr Moyo’s lawyers wrote
to the Clerk of Parliament requesting a formal statement of his
position vis-à-vis Mr Moyo’s right to the Matobo North
seat and to vote in the forthcoming election. The Clerk’s
response is awaited.
MPs appointed by ZANU-PF
An extra vote
for ZANU-PF? The ZANU-PF Politburo on 23rd March decided that the
party would fill the seat, vacant since February 2009 when an extra
non-constituency seat in the House of Assembly became available
to it under GPA
Article 20.1.7. This seat has been allocated to Mrs Oppah Muchinguri.
She will have to be sworn in as an MP before she can vote. [Note
- ZANU-PF will also be filling a vacant Senate seat but this will
not affect the election for Speaker.]
Voting Strengths in the House of Assembly [NB these may Change]
strengths are 96 each for ZANU-PF and MDC-T and 8 for MDC. These
figures exclude Lovemore Moyo, as his exclusion is still being challenged,
and Oppah Muchinguri, as she has not yet been sworn in. The actual
numbers present for the vote may be affected by MPs being unavoidably
absent through illness or official travel commitments or, in the
case of MDC-T MPs, detention in police cells or remand prison, although
obviously the parties will do their best to get all available members
to attend. The MDC party executive has instructed its seven MPs
not to participate in the election.
There are 11
vacant constituency seats in the House, affecting all three parties.
By-elections to fill the seats are in some cases several years overdue.
There is nothing that can be done about this situation before a
new election for a Speaker, but it is tough on the constituencies
concerned to have had their constitutional rights to representation
violated while Parliament dealt with its ordinary workload, and
now they will be unrepresented in the crucial vote to choose Parliament’s
most senior officer.
of Events Leading to New Election of Speaker
2008 - election of Lovemore Moyo as Speaker - during the election
six exuberant MDC-T MPs show their marked ballot papers to colleagues
before depositing them in the ballot box.
- application to High Court to set aside election - Jonathan Moyo,
then Independent MP, and three MDC-M MPs bring court case against
Clerk of Parliament for not ensuring a secret ballot [as specified
in the Constitution and Standing Orders] and against Mr Lovemore
Moyo as declared winner.
July 2009 -
case argued in High Court before Justice Patel
2010 High Court upholds the validity of the election [Electronic
version of judgment available]. The applicants promptly appeal to
the Supreme Court.
2010 - case argued in Supreme Court - judgment reserved.
March 2011 - Supreme
Court ruling sets aside election of Lovemore Moyo as Speaker
March 2011 - House of Assembly due to resume, but Clerk indefinitely
postpones sitting - the House was due to reconvene at 2.15 [it had
been adjourned to this date at its last sitting on 9th March] and
it was expected that the new Speaker would be elected, as the Constitution
states no other business can be conducted until there is a new Speaker.
But, at midday on Tuesday Clerk of Parliament Austin Zvoma held
a press conference announcing there would be no sitting of the House
of Assembly that afternoon as the House’s resolution of 8th
March adjourning to Tuesday afternoon had been “superseded”
by the Supreme Court’s judgment setting aside Mr Lovemore
Moyo’s election as Speaker. The Clerk also said that the election
of a new Speaker would take place on a future date to be announced
by him in due course. [Electronic version of Clerk’s statement
available.] [Note – this assisted one party who were not yet
ready - later it was announced that the ZANU-PF Politburo would
meet on the next day [Wednesday] to choose their candidate, and
they then would have to instruct their Parliamentary caucus accordingly.]
in the House of Assembly chamber at 2.15 pm but no formal sitting
of the House ensued, and they eventually dispersed. When Mr Lovemore
Moyo entered the chamber, ZANU-PF and MDC MPs walked out. MDC-T
MPs first sang and danced in protest and as they left their Secretary-General,
Tendai Biti, citing Standing Order 16, told reporters that the Clerk
had no power to call off the sitting of the House, and that MDC-T
would consider taking legal action to compel the Clerk to recall
MPs promptly and go ahead with the election of a new Speaker.
March - MDC-T lodged a High Court application for an order overruling
the Clerk’s action and ordering him to conduct the election
of a new Speaker on the next Parliamentary sitting day. The case
has been set down for hearing on Wednesday 30th March.
March - a further announcement by the Clerk expected but not made.
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