By Lloyd Takawira
There is a lot of confusion surrounding the ban of by-elections initially slated for December 5 by Vice President, Constantino Chiwenga as Justice Minister, Ziyambi Ziyambi insists the decision stand while Speaker of Parliament, Jacob Mudenda described it as ‘unconstitutional’.
Speaking in Parliament yesterday, Ziyambi cemented his position on the ban which he said was legally binding and as such by-elections remain suspended in the country.
This contradicted Mudenda, who last week announced that Statutory Instrument 225A of 2020, issued by Chiwenga a fortnight ago suspending by-elections as long as Covid-19 remained a “formidable pandemic” was unconstitutional.
Mudenda further said that the parliamentary portfolio on Justice and legal affairs committee was to come up with a position on the statutory instrument.
He said “There are three statutory instruments that the Parliamentary Legal Committee is yet to consider so they did not pronounce themselves as to whether they were adverse or non-adverse.
“We explained that later on because there was confusion. It appeared as if the statutory instrument had recieved an adverse report from the Parliamentary Legal Committee. That was explained.
“That statutory instrument and two others are still to be reviewed by the Parliamentary Legal Committee and they will meet probably in the next two weeks to pronounce their legal opinion.
“The committee is of the opinion that the statutory instruments gazetted in the month of October are not in contravention of the Declaration of Rights or any other provisions of the Constitution of Zimbabwe except for the following statutory instruments:- Statutory Instrument 224 of 2020; Statutory Instrument 225 of 2020 and Statutory Instrument 225(a) of 2020. These three were not compliant with the constitution.”
However , responding to Mbizvo legislator Settlement Chikwinya in the August house Justice Minister Ziyambi Ziyambi argued that the , indefinite suspension of by-elections, which were scheduled for December 5, was Constitutional because it was taken in terms of the law and according to applicable health environment prevailing in the country.
Ziyambi Ziyambi said ,“The opinion of WHO is perfectly okay will establish how that is applicable in our environment. We have a state of emergency and several Statutory Instruments were issued to control the pandemic, including one that deals with by-elections.
“Once we feel that the situation has normalised we will lift the suspension. Let us rememberthat we have a curfew and if we proceed with those by-elections, we will criminalise a lot of people (for moving at night).
“When we make regulations, we do so in terms of the enabling legislation. When advice is given by international organisations, we analyse it to see how it is applicable in our environment. We cannot endanger our people; we cannot expose our people.”
The statutory instrument issued by Chiwenga, who doubles up as Health and Child Care minister, has been condemned as unconstitutional by legal experts as well as civil societies.
In a statement the Zimbabwe Election Support Network (ZESN) expressed it’s concern over the indefinite suspension of by-elections by the Minister of Health and Child Care who is also the Vice President of the Republic of Zimbabwe.
ZESN said , “The move to ban by-elections undercuts Constitutional principles on freedom of expression, good electoral practice and curtails the independence of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) and Parliamentary oversight”.
Additionally the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission last week weighed in criticising the suspension of the polls, saying it was , “not consistent with democratic principles”.