Moves to have by-elections by three former MDC-M legislators from Matabeleland who lost their seats after they were fired by their party could hit a brick wall.
The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec), which the MPs are compelling to conduct by-elections in their constituencies, has said it does not have the power to do so.
Zec chairperson Justice Simpson Mutambanengwe, whom the lawmakers cited in their High Court application demanding immediate elections, said in his opposing affidavit that only President Robert Mugabe had the prerogative to make an announcement calling for elections.
The former MPs — Abednico Bhebhe, Njabuliso Mguni and Norman Mpofu — are seeking an order compelling Zec to conduct by-elections for Nkayi South, Lupane East and Bulilima East seats, which have been vacant for over a year.
Following their expulsion from MDC-M, the three, who were sitting Members of the House of Assembly, lost their seats.
Now, they want to contest by-elections, standing as independents in their respective constituencies.
Mutambanengwe is cited as the first respondent while Zec is the second respondent with President Mugabe cited as the third respondent.
The Zec chairperson said the disgruntled former MPs were barking up the wrong tree because neither he nor Zec had the powers to call for elections before President Mugabe proclaimed them.
“In terms of Section 39 of the Electoral Act (Chapter 2:13), (relied upon by Applicants), there are very distinct procedures set out therein before the participation of the first respondent (Mutambanengwe) and second respondent (Zec), (which conditions are prerequisites to the holding of any election), namely a proclamation in terms of Section 39 of the Electoral Act,” reads the affidavit by Mutambanengwe.
“The proclamation falls within the limited prerogative of the third respondent (President Mugabe). In the absence of such proclamation, the first respondent (Mutambanengwe) and second respondent (Zec) cannot conduct an election.”
Mutambanengwe and Zec are represented by Chikumbirike and Associates.
The former legislators have responded and said their application sought to compel President Mugabe to gazette a date for by-elections in their constituencies within 14 days.
“The first respondent (Mutambanengwe) and the second respondent (Zec) are being required to thereafter (after gazetting by President Mugabe) hold the election in terms of their mandate,” reads the answering affidavit by Bhebhe and his colleagues.
The applicants also pointed out that although they served Mutambanengwe and Zec with the application on August 5 and expected them to file opposing papers by August 23, they had only done so on August 26 “without an application for condonation for late filing of papers”.
There are 20 by-elections that are pending following the death in some instances of legislators.
In Matabeleland South, the Matobo constituency seat is also vacant following the election of Lovemore Moyo as Speaker of the House of Assembly.