‘Chiwenga ban on by-elections illegal’ – think-tank

Vice President Constantino Chiwenga

PARLIAMENTARY and legal think-tank, Veritas, says Vice President Constantino Chiwenga violated the country’s constitution when he declared the suspension by-elections on account of Covid-19 pandemic.

Chiwenga, who doubles as the country’s health minister, last week stopped the by-elections for many vacant legislative and municipal seats.

By-elections were called for December 5, 2020.

However, Chiwenga moved to amend Statutory Instrument 225A of 2020, Public Health COVID-19 Prevention, Containment and Treatment) (Amendment) Regulations, 2020 (No 4), a policy shift that also affected the holding of the mini-polls.

But Veritas, in a statement, said Chiwenga’s suspension of by-elections-was against the letter and spirit of the supreme law of the land.

“In publishing SI 225A of 2020, the Minister of Health amended section 3 of the Public Health (COVID-19 Prevention and Containment) Regulations to say that while the declaration of Covid-19 as a formidable epidemic disease is in force ‒ i.e. until the 1st January next year, i to extension ‒ the holding of by-elections to fill vacancies in the National Assembly and local authorities is suspended.

“The 90-day period within which by-elections must be held in terms of section 158 (3) of the Constitution begins to run from the date on which the declaration ends.

“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,” Veritas said. – Newzim