The Legal Committee in the Zimbabwean Parliament has declared unconstitutional, a decision to ban by-elections by Vice President and Health Minister Constantino Chiwenga.
Two weeks ago, Chiwenga, through a Statutory Instrument 225A of 2020, controversially suspended this year’s by-elections citing the Covid-19.
On Thursday, the speaker of Parliament Jacob Mudenda announced that SI 225A/2020, effected to ban by-elections has been declared unconstitutional by the Parliamentary Legal Committee.
Observers had since argued that the Statutory Instrument was unconstitutional. Some have said it was meant to ensure that the main opposition MDC Alliance does not recover recalled seats.
More than 35 MDC Alliance MPs, Councillors, and Senators have been recently recalled by reinstated MDC-T leaders Thokozani Khupe and Douglas Mwonzora.
The MDC-T used a March Supreme Court ruling that declared Nelson Chamisa’s leadership of opposition left by late leader Morgan Tsvangirai who died in 2018 from cancer.
MDC Alliance leader Nelson Chamisa has since refused to respect the ruling and argued that it was influenced by Zanu PF’s quest to destroy the main opposition.
MDC Alliance Secretary-General Charlton Hwende has also been recalled and he welcomed the Parliament decision.
“The speaker of Parliament has just announced that SI 225A/2020 has been deemed unconstitutional by the Parliamentary Legal Committee. This is critical in that the SI is immediately struck off and had no force or effect,” he said.
The MDC Alliance has since said the instrument was unconstitutional and it violated the will of the people.
“The MDC Alliance is deeply concerned with the unconstitutionality of the decision to suspend by-elections. Section 159 of the Constitution requires a vacant elective public office to be filled within 90 days.
“This constitutional imperative cannot be overturned by subsidiary legislation as the Constitution is the Supreme Law. The effective banning of elections follows the unlawful recalls of elected representatives from Parliament and Local Government. The will of the people continues to be violated by the illegitimate regime of Mr. Mnangagwa,” MDC Alliance said in a statement.
Zimbabwe Electoral Support Network (ZESN) had argued that banning by-elections infringed on democracy.
“ZESN is of the view that, while the special policy has been enacted in response to containing the pandemic, ZESN reiterates its concerns on the seemingly quarantining of democracy as it is not clear when the restrictions will be lifted and more so given that no one knows how long the pandemic will last,” read the statement.
Mnangagwa, his deputy Chiwenga and the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission have already been taken to court by disgruntled voters over the “unconstitutional” banning of elections.