The call came after Zec announced at the weekend plans to fill 15 vacant seats arising from the recalling of MDC Alliance legislators by the Thokozani Khupe-led MDCT.
Zec said it was empowered to do so in terms of Section 39 of the Electoral act (Chapter 2:13), but the Zimbabwe Election Support Network (Zesn) has warned again the move.
Khupe recalled MDC Alliance legislators and councillors after assuming control of the party following the court’s dismissal of the opposition leader Nelson Chamisa as an illegitimate president.
The process of replacing the recalled Members of Parliament is coming at a time conflicting decisions have been handed down by different judges of the High Court.
In one case, a High Court judge granted a provisional order interdicting the replacement of some recalled proportional representation MPs and in another similar matter, a different High Court judge dismissed the urgent application.
“In both instances, we understand that the matters were taken on appeal. In our view, it would have been prudent to await the finalisation of the appeals in the Supreme Court before initiating the replacement process,” Zesn argued. However, Zec chief elections officer Utoile Silaigwana said the electoral body was just following the law, adding the filling of vacant seats could only be halted by a court order.
“The commission has no discretion as to whether the process should or should not commence. Once notice is given and received by Zec as prescribed in section 39 (3) of the Electoral Act, the processes stipulated in sections 39(4) to 39(8) must be initiated and carried out lest Zec be in breach of the law,” Silaigwana said.
“In simple terms, Zec is bound to follow the provisions of the Electoral Act unless a court order expressly enjoins it to refrain from doing so. The Zec has received no such order from the court and must thus pursue its mandate as per dictates of the law.”
According to Zesn, the Zec should allow for engagements with stakeholders even under the current lockdown to “improve understanding by electoral stakeholders of how the electoral calendar has been and will likely be affected by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.”