Constitutional Law expert, Alex Magaisa has castigated the move by the government to suspend by-elections for the duration of the COVID-19 saying it is unconstitutional and illegal but unsurprising as Zanu-PF is scared of the opposition MDC Alliance.
The suspension of the by-elections was announced through the Statutory Instrument (S.I) 225A of 2020, in which Vice President Constantino Chiwenga who is the Health Minister said the by-elections which were slated for December, will be suspended, in terms of section 68 of the Public Health Act [Chapter 15:17].
“Pursuant to subsection (2), the holding of any by-election to fill a casual vacancy in Parliament or in a local authority is, for the duration of the period of the declaration of COVID-19 as a formidable epidemic disease, suspended, and if such vacancy occurred while such declaration is in force, no part of the period from the date of such vacancy to the date of the end of the declaration shall be counted for the purposes of section 158(3) of the Constitution,” the SI unit reads.
However, Magaisa said Chiwenga does not have the power to amend the constitution as the SI unit seeks and alleged that the state is abusing the COVID-19 to pursue dictatorial tendencies.
“The legality of this Statutory Instrument is doubtful. It seeks to amend (by implication) not only the Electoral Act but also the Constitution. The Minister of Health does not have the power to do that. Second, the SI cannot operate retrospectively as it seeks to do. It’s all very clumsy.
“If Mnangagwa wants to establish a State of Emergency in which electoral activity is banned and he rules by decree then he must follow the appropriate constitutional procedures.
He added that the rushed announcement is a result of ZanuPF’ fears for the elections. The elections were supposed to replace recalled MDC Alliance members who are victims of the internal p[arty squabbles within the opposition fraternity as well as some MPs who have since passed on.
“The government has no interest in these by-elections because the longer they remain in abeyance, the more confusion there is in the opposition which serves ZANU PF.
“ZANU PF knows these are opposition strongholds so it has no incentive to hold elections in those areas. If elections are held it will favour the MDC Alliance, which is more likely to win and return to Parliament.
“So I’m not surprised that they have suspended by-elections. I was more surprised when ZEC announced that there would be by-elections
The country has been seeing a decrease in new cases while the recovery rate has also increased as 6312 of 7850 cases have recovered while 228 have died.
However, the government cited that the environment is not conducive enough to hold the elections despite Mnangagwa holding rallies with multitudes of people.
Election Resource Centre, an election moniti=oring board said the move puts into jeopardy the credibility of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) as it is now taking directives from Chiwenga.
“The independence of the @ZECzim has been cast into doubt with the Minister of Health now regulating electoral activities,” ERC posted on Twitter.
Alex MagaisaElection Resource Centre (ERC)Vice President Constantino ChiwengaZEC