BY VENERANDA LANGA
THE Zimbabwe Electoral Commission has been warned that it risks flouting the law if it lets the Thokozani Khupe-led MDC-T fill the gazetted 15 proportional representation (party list) seats that were left vacant after the party recalled MDC Alliance MPs from Parliament.
This was revealed by legal think-tank Veritas in its latest Bill Watch.
Veritas said the matter of whether the MDC-T could recall MDC Alliance MPs was still sub judice.
About 22 MDC Alliance MPs were recently recalled in the National Assembly and Senate.
Most recalls targeted PR MPs because it is easier to replace them without holding by-elections.
On July 31, Zec in general notice 2078/2020, informed the public that it had received notice from Parliament of 15 PR seat vacancies, which comprised seven seats from the National Assembly and eight seats from the Senate.
“These vacancies had been previously announced in Parliament by the Speaker of the National Assembly Jacob Mudenda and the president of the Senate Mabel Chinomona, respectively, citing section 129(1)(k) of the Constitution,” Veritas said.
“But the legal situation on the legitimacy of the MDC Alliance vis-à-vis the MDC-T is still sub judice. Whether the recalls by MDC-T still stand after the 31st July (the deadline the Supreme Court gave for a fresh
MDC-T congress to elect the leadership) is also legally questionable. If Zec goes ahead with filling these vacancies on the basis that the recalls were valid, it may find itself embroiled in legal proceedings,” the legal think-tank warned.
Veritas also stated: “The Electoral Act in section 39(4) of the Electoral Act provides that upon being notified of vacancies in the proportional representation seats in Parliament, Zec must notify the public of the vacancies by notice in the Gazette and, at the same time as the notice is gazetted, must invite the political party (ie the political party to which the former incumbents belonged) to nominate suitably qualified persons to fill the vacant seats.
“If the chief elections officer is satisfied that the nomination papers are in order, Zec will then gazette a list of the nominees and invite objections to the nominees from members of the public. Finally, in the absence of valid objections, Zec will gazette a notice appointing the nominees as members of Parliament to fill the vacant seats.”
Despite that the fired MPs argued that they contested under MDC Alliance and against MDC-T candidates, Parliament accepted the recalls of the MPs by Khupe’s party.
Khupe was herself recalled from the National Assembly in April 2018 by Nelson Chamisa while she was then MDC-T Bulawayo PR legislator and leader of the opposition in the House, a post which carried several privileges, among them protection by State security services.
After the Supreme Court judgment of March 31, 2020 restored Khupe as MDC-T interim leader, she claimed she had the power to recall MDC Alliance MPs and successfully executed her plan.
Zimbabwe’s Constitution in section 157(1)(d) stipulates that PR seats do not necessitate by-elections.
It states that a vacant party list seat must be filled by a person belonging to the same political party as the former incumbent and must be of the same gender.