BILL WATCH 11/2015
[27th March 2015]
President Orders Another 14 By-Elections to Fill National Assembly Vacancies
In today’s Government Gazette there is a Presidential Proclamation [SI 39/2015] ordering the holding of by-elections to fill 14 National Assembly constituency vacancies.
These 14 vacancies were officially recognised by the Speaker on 17th March when he announced in the National Assembly that these constituency vacancies – and 3 non-constituency/proportional representation seats – were vacant by operation of section 129(1)(k) of the Constitution. On the same day the President of the Senate made a similar announcement of 4 proportional representation vacancies in that House. All 21 seats in question were won by MDC-T members on the MDC-T ticket on the MDC-T ticket. The application of section 129(1)(k) to the 21 MPs concerned was triggered by letters from MDC-T Secretary-General Douglas Mwonzora notifying the presiding officers that they were no longer members of the party. [See Bill Watch 10/2015 of 19th March for more on the announcements and some background.] These allegations are hotly disputed by the 21 individuals.
Note: A proportional representation vacancy is not filled by by-elections, but by nomination from the party formerly holding the seat in question, in accordance with a procedure laid down by section 39 of the Electoral Act.
The Proclaimed By-Election Timetable
The President’s proclamation fixes the same nomination days and polling days for all 14 by-elections, as follows:
- Nomination Day: Thursday 16th April
- Polling Day: Wednesday 10th June.
Same polling date as for Headlands and Hurungwe West By-elections
Wednesday 10th June has already been fixed as the polling day for the Headlands and Hurungwe West by-elections, which are to fill the seats formerly held by Mr Didymus Mutasa and Mr Temba Mliswa, respectively; nomination day for those two by-elections is 8th April. These seats also, according to an earlier announcement by the Speaker on 3rd March, fell vacant under section 129(1)(k) of the Constitution after appropriate notification to the Speaker from ZANU-PF [see Bill Watch 9/2015 of 17th March].
So the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission could find itself conducting as many as 19 by-elections on that day – depending on the Constitutional Court and its decisions on the cases referred to in the following paragraph.
Court Challenges to Application of Section 129(1)(k)
Headlands and Hurungwe West
The Chief Justice has granted Mr Mutasa and Mr Mliswa an urgent Wednesday 1st April hearing of their Constitutional Court application to have their expulsions from Parliament set aside. The case will be heard by the full nine-member Constitutional Court, which will, unusually, be sitting during its Easter Vacation. The hearing will take place only one week before the 8th April 2015 nomination day for the Headlands and Hurungwe West by-elections, so an early decision is necessary.
The 21 latest vacancies
All the MPs affected by the presiding officers’ announcements on 17th March have also launched proceedings in the Constitutional Court to have their expulsions from Parliament set aside. As both this case and the Mutasa/Mliswa case involve the application of section 129(1)(k) of the Constitution, and as nomination day in the 14 by-elections announced today is 16th April, it would make sense for this case, too, to be heard on Wednesday 1st April at the court sitting already arranged for the Mutasa/Mliswa application.
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