FOR any election to be adjudged as free, fair and credible, it has to have a certain level of certainty in how it’s called, conducted and results announced. However, in Zimbabwe’s case nothing is certain as rules and regulations are changed arbitrarily in the middle of the election season in violation of the Constitution.
With less than 24 hours to the sitting of the nomination courts, Zimbabweans woke up to new regulations in relation to how the women’s quota in local authorities, youth quota and provincial council members are elected.
This is blatantly illegal as the Constitution and the electoral laws are very clear that no new laws or regulations governing elections can be made or promulgated after the election date has been proclaimed.
President Emmerson Mnangagwa and his government have abused their incumbency to alter the laws against the spirit and letter of the Constitution.
It had been known since 2021 after the controversial Constitutional Amendment No 2 which extended the life of the women's quota on proportional representation in the National Assembly by another two terms and created new quotas for women in councils, youth in Parliament and provincial council members, that there would be need to amend the Electoral Act to capture these changes.
Worryingly, Mnangagwa proclaimed August 23 as the election date before Parliament could pass the Electoral Amendment Bill that was before the august House.
The rush to proclaim the election date is difficult to understand. Many still wonder why Mnangagwa, despite his Zanu PF party having a majority in Parliament could not wait for the Bill to be passed. He acted like a man in a hurry — a hurry to where?
Justice minister Ziyambi Ziyambi and Attorney-General Prince Machaya, as government legal gurus, should have advised the President that after proclamation no new regulations could be gazetted for the conduct of an impending poll.
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We can only hazard to say that Mnangagwa was not given professional advice or he did not pay heed.
The Law Reviser who made changes to the law is not qualified to have made such sweeping changes to the law. He overstepped his mandate by usurping Parliament's powers.
So even before the first vote is cast, the result of this election is already subject of contestation as it is being conducted under illegal regulations.
Instead of improving Zimbabwe’s image, such crass and reckless decisions further cast Zimbabwe as a pariah State where laws mean nothing and can be changed at the whim of those in power.
It remains to be seen if any of the political players in this election will challenge the regulations, but for now, it is hard not to think the election has already been rigged by not adhering to the rules of the game from the word go.