LEGISLATIVE watchdog, Veritas, has warned that Beitbridge residents might fail to vote for councillors in this year’s general elections after President Emmerson Mnangagwa “unconstitutionally” caused the delimitation of the border town’s wards.
By NQOBANI NDLOVU
Mnangagwa last week upgraded Beitbridge Town Council to municipal status through a statutory instrument published in a Government Gazette last Friday. The proclamation includes descriptions of the new municipality’s six wards, implying that the President caused the delimitation of the border town.
The proclamation was made in terms of Section 4 (1) of the Urban Councils Act (Chapter 29:15).
Veritas argued that by so doing, Mnangagwa “acted inconsistently with section 160(2) of the Constitution which states that “For the purpose of elections to local authorities, the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) must divide local authority areas into wards according to the number of members to be elected to the local authorities concerned.”
“Why was this allowed to happen? Because the Urban Councils Act and the Rural District Councils Act still contain provisions purporting to allow the President to divide local authority areas into wards and to alter the wards from time to time.
“For instance, section 4 of the Urban Councils Act empowers the President by proclamation to establish a municipality, to fix the council area, and “after consultation with the Zec, to divide the council area into any number of wards.
“These provisions are inconsistent with section 160(2) of the Constitution to the extent that they allow the President to divide a local authority’s area into wards. The President cannot do so, even if he consults Zec. Only Zec itself can do it,” Veritas said in a commentary.
Veritas said the error could only be rectified through the alignment of the Urban Councils Act and the Rural District Council’s Act with section 160(2) of the Constitution.
“The boundaries which the President purportedly fixed for Beitbridge may be the same as the previous ward boundaries, but that does not make them legal. The municipality of Beitbridge is a new entity, and its boundaries do not carry over automatically from the old town council.
“The boundaries have to be fixed afresh, which is why the President tried to fix them in his proclamation. But the President had no power to do so, even if he consulted Zec, so the ward boundaries are void.”
Zec commisisoner Qhubani Moyo, however, insisted that no Beitbridge resident would be prejudiced in the elections.
“There is no change in electoral boundaries. There will be six wards but still under the new Beitbridge municipality, so there will be no prejudice to any voters,” Moyo said.