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Legal Think Tank Condemns Suspension Of By-Elections

7 October 2020

Veritas, a Parliamentary and legal think-tank, has said the indefinite suspension of by-elections in the country is an unconstitutional move.

This comes after Vice President Constantino Chiwenga recently amended Statutory Instrument 225A of 2020, Public Health COVID-19 Prevention, Containment and Treatment) (Amendment) Regulations, 2020 (No 4) to suspend by-elections citing the prevalence of coronavirus.

The suspension of by-elections has attracted criticism from some observers with some arguing that the move by Chiwenga who is also the Health minister was a political one with nothing to do with the coronavirus.

Veritas observed that section 158 (3) of the Constitution stipulates that once a Parliamentary or council seat becomes vacant, by-elections must be held within 90 days. Added the think tank:

This is unconstitutional. In our Election Watch 1 of 2020 of the 17th May, we commented on an earlier attempt by the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission [ZEC] to suspend by-elections because of the Covid-19 pandemic and concluded that ZEC could not do it. The same goes for this attempt.

Section 158 (3) of the Constitution states quite clearly: Polling in by-elections to Parliament and local authorities must take place within ninety days after the vacancies occurred …

The Constitution makes no provision for an extension of the 90-day period, even during a state of emergency ‒ and a state of public emergency is not currently in force.

Just as ZEC had no power to suspend by-elections by administrative decree, so too the Minister of Health has no power to suspend them through regulations under the Public Health Act.  The Constitution overrides administrative decisions and regulations.  The Constitution must be obeyed.

Meanwhile, the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission presided over a number of by-elections over the weekend thereby worsening the confusion on the rationale behind the SI.

More: New Zimbabwe

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