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Current representation in Parliament - Impact if vacancies are filled - Bill Watch 43/2012
Veritas
September 14, 2012

Current Party Representation in Parliament

Impact if Vacancies are Filled

Could one party alone get the draft constitution they want through Parliament? A constitutional change must be approved by "the affirmative votes of not less than two-thirds of the total membership of each House" [Constitution, section 52(3)]. "Total membership" means the numbers in each House specified in the Constitution, i.e., 215 in the House of Assembly and 99 in the Senate. This has raised questions about voting strengths in Parliament and if by-elections would make a significant difference.

Current Party Representation in Parliament

[For details of vacancies see further below]

House of Assembly

16 vacant seats, leaving 199 MPs out of a possible 215.

The breakdown by party is:

  • ZANU-PF 94
  • MDC-T 97
  • MDC 8

A two-thirds majority in the House of Assembly would be 144 votes. This means that the MDCs voting together [105] would have to get 39 ZANU-PF MPs to vote with them for a two-thirds majority. Conversely, for ZANU-PF to get a two-thirds majority for the constitution they want, they would have to get 50 MDC votes.

Senate

14 vacant seats, leaving 85 Senators out of a possible 99.

The breakdown by party, with Senator Chiefs listed separately, is:

ZANU-PF 38 [including 9 governors and 5 appointed Senators]

Chiefs 16

MDC-T 23 [including 3 appointed Senators]

MDC 8 [including 2 appointed Senators]

A two-thirds majority in the Senate would be 66 votes. The chiefs have always voted for ZANU-PF, which would give that bloc 54, meaning they would have to get 12 MDC votes for a two-thirds majority. If the MDCs vote together they have 31 votes and would have to win over 35 chiefs and ZANU-PF Senators for a two-thirds majority. [As parties have a strong Party Caucus and Whip system, winning over votes from an opposing party is highly unlikely on so important a matter as a constitution, especially if it is one on which ZANU-PF and the MDCs have taken strongly opposing views. Consensus on which draft goes to Parliament is essential.

Would holding all 26 by-elections currently in the news enable either ZANU-PF or the combined MDCs to muster a two-thirds majority in both House?

Voting Strengths if 26 By-Elections Held and Other Vacancies Filled

How would party strengths change if the potential 26 by-elections all go ahead and the 4 non-constituency Senate vacancies are filled? That is a question that can only be answered precisely after the by-elections, if they are ever called, and much would depend on whether the GPA agreement not to contest seats won by a party in the 2008 elections is observed. What can be said at this stage is this that it is extremely unlikely that either ZANU-PF and Chiefs together, or the MDCs voting together, would end up with a two-thirds majority in either House. In fact the only two-thirds majority that could possibly be achieved is for ZANU-PF/Chiefs in the Senate if ZANU-PF won every single by-election for that House.

House of Assembly – a two-thirds majority would be 144 votes out of 215

If the GPA parties hold to the no-contest pact, or, if contested, the by-elections result in each party winning the same constituencies as they did in the 2008 elections, the end result would be ZANU-PF 102; MDC-T 102; MDC 11. Neither ZANU-PF nor the combined MDCs would have a two-thirds majority. Nor would either bloc, even in the unlikely scenario of one camp winning all the by-elections. [If ZANU-PF won all 16 by-elections they would then have110 seats to the combined MDCs 105. If the combined MDCs were to win all by-elections they would have 121 to ZANU-PF's 94.]

Senate – a two-thirds majority would be 66 votes out of 99

Under a no-contest pact, or, if contested, the by-election results follow the 2008 pattern, and assuming the 2 seats due for appointment and the 2 chiefs' seats were filled, the ZANU-PF/Chiefs bloc would have 63 to the MDC bloc's 36, not a two-thirds majority. If the MDC bloc were successful in all the by-elections they would still only have 42 votes to the ZANU-PF bloc's 57; not a two-thirds majority. In the event of ZANU-PF winning all the by-elections in the Senate , ZANU-PF and Chiefs together would have a very narrow two-thirds majority in the Senate [67 votes to the MDC bloc 32]. But for one party to win all the by-elections is a very unlikely outcome, and it still would not get the constitution through as it has to have a two-thirds majority in both Houses.

The 26 Vacant Constituency Seats Due for By-Elections

As the media are continuing to give a variety of different numbers of vacant seats requiring by-elections, Veritas is again outlining the correct situation. Out of a total of 30 vacant Parliamentary seats, there are 26 vacant constituency seats for which by-elections are overdue, 16 in the House of Assembly and 10 in the Senate. The constituencies concerned, and which party and individual previously held each seat, are listed below. These details have been verified with Parliament and they are the figures agreed by the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission which is responsible for conducting by-elections. Whether by-elections will ever be held is a separate question.

Vacant House of Assembly Constituency Seats for By-Elections [Total 16]

[in alphabetical order by constituency]

ZANU-PF [8] Reason for vacancy

  • Bindura North [Mash C] Elliot Manyika deceased
  • Gokwe-Gumunyu [Midlands] Ephrem Mushoriwa deceased
  • Guruve North [Mash C] Cletus Mabharanga deceased
  • Marondera East [Mash E] Tracy Mutinhiri expelled from party
  • Mount Darwin East [Mash C] Betty Chikava deceased
  • Mutare North [Manicaland] Charles Pemenhayi deceased
  • Mwenezi West [Masvingo] Neddie Masukume deceased
  • Shamva South [Mash C] Samuel Ziteya deceased

MDC-T [5]

  • Emakhandeni Entumbane [Byo] Cornelius Dube deceased
  • Gutu South [Masvingo] Eliphas Mukonoweshuro deceased
  • Mabvuku-Tafara [Harare] Shepherd Madamombe deceased
  • Makoni Central [Manicaland] John Nyamande deceased
  • Matobo North [Mat S] Lovemore Moyo elected Speaker

MDC [3]

  • Bulilima East [Mat S] Norman Mpofu expulsion from party
  • Lupane East [Mat N] Njabuliso Mguni expulsion from party
  • Nkayi South [Mat N] Abednico Bhebhe expulsion from party

Vacant Senate Constituency Seats for By-Elections [Total 10]

[in alphabetical order by constituency]

ZANU-PF [6] Reason for vacancy

  • Bindura-Shamva [Mash C] Misheck Chando deceased
  • Chegutu [Mash W] Ednah Madzongwe elected Senate President
  • Chiredzi [Masvingo] Titus Maluleke appointed Governor
  • Gokwe South [Midlands] Jason Machaya appointed Governor
  • Kadoma [Mash W] Chiratidzo Gava deceased
  • Mberengwa [Midlands] Richard Hove deceased

MDC-T [4]

  • Gweru-Chirumanzu [Midlands] Patrick Kombayi deceased
  • Hwange [Mat N] Jabulani Ndlovu deceased
  • Mabutweni [Byo] Gladys Dube deceased
  • Masotsha-Ndlovu [Byo] Enna Chitsa deceased

MDC [0]

There are Also Vacant Non-Constituency Seats Not Requiring By-Elections

The other 4 vacant seats, all in the Senate, are listed below for the sake of completeness. They do not have to be filled by calling by-elections. These non-constituency vacancies were caused by the deaths of the incumbents.

2 chiefs seats: These seats are for particular provinces, but are not constituency seats in the ordinary sense. Vacancies must be filled by the provincial assemblies of chiefs in the provinces concerned, sitting as electoral colleges. There is 1 vacant seat for Manicaland, formerly held by the late Chief Chimombe, and 1 for Matabeleland South, formerly held by the late Chief Bidi.

2 appointed seats: One of these seats is the MDC-T appointed seat formerly occupied by the late Dr Tichaona Mudzingwa, waiting to be filled by an MDC-T nominee. The other is an ex officio provincial governor's seat formerly occupied by the late Harare Provincial Governor Dr David Karimanzira, waiting to be filled by the President's appointment of a new Harare Provincial Governor.

Clarification of Common Misconceptions About Vacancies

Figure of 38 vacancies wrong the figure 38 seems to have stuck since Minister Chinamasa, speaking off the cuff in the Senate, said he thought there were about 38 Parliamentary vacancies, but warned that he needed to confirm the figure. He later gave the correct number as 26.

Vice-President Mujuru's Mount Darwin West seat not vacant - V-P Mujuru kept her House of Assembly seat when she was elevated to Vice-President. Misconceptions may have been prompted by a misreading of Article 20.1.8 of Schedule 8 to the Constitution: "20.1.8 Parliament 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." ZANU-PF did this, belatedly, in March 2011, when Ms Oppah Muchinguri was appointed a non-constituency MP by President Mugabe.

Senator Bennett's appointed Senate seat not vacant - Although Senator Bennett has not been seen in the Senate since he left the country in September 2010, the Senate has never invoked its power to unseat him for absenteeism in terms of section 41(1)(d) of the Constitution. While he stays away, MDC-T's Senate strength on paper is effectively reduced by one.

Temporary suspensions no longer in force - 4 MDC-T MPs were under suspension after being sentenced to imprisonment for committing criminal offences, but they retained their seats and were all fully reinstated after having their convictions overturned on appeal.

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