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The Speaker's election - Bill Watch 13/2011
March 31, 2011

The House of Assembly has adjourned to Tuesday 5th April

The Senate has adjourned to 10th May

MDC-T’s Lovemore Moyo Elected as Speaker [Again]

Proceedings commenced at 3 pm on 29th March, less than 24 hours after the official announcement of the date and time of the election. The announcement had been preceded by days of secrecy on the part of Parliament over what was happening, which seemed uncalled for about an event of such national interest.

Results of the vote were announced by the Clerk of Parliament shortly after 6.30 pm, as follows:

  • Lovemore Moyo [MDC-T]: 105
  • Simon Khaya Moyo [ZANU-PF]: 93
  • Spoilt ballot paper: 1

Events in the House Before the Poll

  • Lovemore Moyo ejected by the Clerk of Parliament, Austin Zvoma, on the basis that he was not a Member of Parliament, whereupon MDC MPs objected to the presence in the House of Vice President John Nkomo. The Clerk said he would not allow any questions or challenges.
  • Vice President John Nkomo and Oppah Muchinguri sworn in as members of the House by the Clerk. This gave ZANU-PF two more votes. [Note: Oppah Muchinguri was last week nominated to fill a non-constituency seat that had been vacant for over two years. Mr Nkomo’s swearing-in came as a surprise [for detailed comment see below], but the Clerk ignored objections from the MDC MPs.]
  • The Clerk addressed MPs, explaining the background of why there was a new election for Speaker, saying that the President had fixed Tuesday 29th March at 3.00 o'clock as the date and time for the election [see comment below] and laying down new ground rules for the election, taking into account the Supreme Court’s judgment.
  • Nomination of Candidates
    • Mr Simon Khaya Moyo – ZANU-PF [nominated by Lawrence Mavima, seconded by Joram Gumbo]
    • Mr Lovemore Moyo – MDC-T [nominated by Tendai Biti, seconded by Murisi Zwizwai]
    • Mr Jonathan Moyo – ZANU-PF [nominated by Tongai Matutu, seconded by Amos Chibaya of MDC-T], but Mr Moyo promptly declined.
  • Speeches for Candidates
    • Lawrence Mavima spoke urging members to vote for ZANU-PF candidate Simon Khaya Moyo.
    • Tendai Biti then spoke in support of MDC-T candidate Lovemore Moyo. He prefaced his statement with scathing remarks especially about the manner in which the Clerk had handled the whole issue since the Supreme Court decision, and also mentioned that some members of his party had been approached with bribes by ZANU-PF MPs, to vote for ZANU-PF. The Clerk said such remarks would not be recorded, and they do not appear in the official Hansard report of yesterday’s proceedings [see comment below].

Voting Statistics

199 members were present to take part in the poll out of a possible 203 eligible members of the House [members had to be present to vote].

Possible Actual

  • ZANU-PF 98 [including Nkomo and Muchinguri ] 96
  • MDC-T 97 [after exclusion of Lovemore Moyo] 96
  • MDC 8 7

These figures prompt the conclusion that 3 ZANU-PF members voted for Lovemore Moyo [see comment below].

Absent Members [4]

  • ZANU-PF Neddie Masukume [ill] and Cephas Sindi
  • MDC-T Elton Mangoma [in remand prison – the State had that morning thwarted his release on bail by notifying its intention to appeal against the bail order under section 121 of the Criminal Procedure and Evidence Act]
  • MDC Edward Mkhosi [ill]

Mr Speaker Moyo’s Acceptance Speech

In a short speech to the assembled MPs after the result had been announced, Mr Moyo thanked members across party lines for showing confidence in his leadership. He said that his re-election gave all MPs an opportunity to continue work to democratise, modernise and strengthen the House of Assembly’s portfolio committee system, and mentioned the need to ensure that Parliament takes up its position in the regional and international family of Parliamentary diplomacy. He also managed to work in an oblique comment on his removal from office by the Supreme Court: “Moving forward from here, I think there is need for the nation to open a broad debate on the meaning of the doctrine of separation of powers between the three arms of the State with a view to strengthening our institutions and defending their operational autonomy for the good governance of our country. It is healthy for our country to have these debates on this and many other questions that remain unanswered and that prevent the emergence of a strong sense of nationhood.”

Comments on the Election

John Nkomo’s Membership of House of Assembly: Until Tuesday Vice-President John Nkomo was regarded as an appointed Senator, having been appointed by President Mugabe in August 2008. He continued to be listed as such by Parliament in Hansard after his appointment as Vice-President in December 2009. His swearing-in as an ex officio member of the House of Assembly is questionably based on what Article 20.1.8 of the GPA says about the consequences of appointing a Vice-President: “Persons appointed to the posts of Vice-President, Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister and who are not already Members of Parliament, become ex officio members of the House of Assembly. Should persons so appointed be already members of Parliament, then the Party of which that person is a member or nominee shall have the right to nominate a non-constituency member of the relevant House.” But, Mr Nkomo was already a member of Parliament [as an appointed member of the Senate] when he was appointed Vice-President. That being so, the first sentence of the Article does not apply to him and he did not become an ex officio member of the House of Assembly. He remained an appointed Senator, and in terms of the second sentence of Article 20.1.8, ZANU-PF had the right to nominate a non-constituency Senator – which it did last week by nominating Rugare Gumbo. If his party had wanted Mr Nkomo to sit in the House of Assembly, he should have resigned his Senate seat to entitle him to a lower house seat under the GPA.

Omissions from Hansard report: The omission from the Hansard report, by direction of the Clerk, of certain things that were said during Tuesday’s proceedings is surprising and a cause for concern. Hansard is supposed to be an authoritative and complete verbatim record of what is said in the two Houses of Parliament. This may cause an unfortunate precedent and result in lack of transparency in the business of Parliament.

President’s Role in Timing of the Election: Neither the Constitution nor Standing Orders authorize the President to fix the date and time of a Speakers election during the life of a Parliament. As events turned out, his intervention did not prejudice the MDC-T candidate, but again it is a bad precedent, as timing could favour the preparations of one party.

Ballot-Papers Must Be Kept Secret After the Election: There have been reports of a ZANU-PF witch-hunt to identify the party members who voted for Lovemore Moyo. It is axiomatic that in a secret ballot the completed ballot papers remain secret – so the Clerk of Parliament cannot allow anyone to have access to the ballot papers in an effort to trace how individual members voted. In any event the ballot papers were not numbered, so cannot be traced to particular voters.

MDC-T Case against Clerk of Parliament Withdrawn

The MDC-T legal case challenging the Clerk of Parliament’s handling of the run-up to the Speaker’s election came before Justice Hlatshwayo on Wednesday 30th March, the day after the election. The upshot of the hearing before the judge was that MDC-T withdrew the case, which had been rendered academic and not urgent by the holding of the election the previous day. The judge will decide who should pay the costs of the case in due course, after receiving written submissions from both parties.

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