Aspiring candidates sue govt over suspension of by-elections

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By Robert Tapfumaneyi

A group of aspiring candidates have approached the High Court seeking a declaratory order to the effect that the suspending of by-lections in Zimbabwe was unconstitutional.

The aspiring candidates are Ellah Tayengwa (Kuwadzana East constituency), Moud Chinyerere (Highfield West), Agnes Togarepi (Highfield West), Gracious Matsunga (Mufakose), David Gwanzura (Glen View South Ward 31) and Loice Gwangwara of Marondera Central constituency.

They are being represented by Harare lawyer and MDC Alliance politician Tendai Biti.

The candidates are being joined in the litigation process by two organisations, Women’s academy for leadership and political excellence (WALPE) and Election Resource Centre Trust.

The 1st Respondent is the Zimbabwe Election Commission (ZEC), 2nd Respondent is the President of the Republic of Zimbabwe and the 3rd Respondent is the Minister of Health and Child Care.

The candidates and the two organisations are arguing that the 1st and 2nd Respondents decision not to hold by-elections before the 30th of September 2020, was in breach of The Electoral Act and Sections 258 and 259 of the Constitution of Zimbabwe.

“In respect of by-elections to fill vacancies in elections, the 1st Respondent is obliged to comply with the provision of Section 121A of the Electoral Act,” read the court papers.

 “In this regard, the 1st Respondent is obliged to fix a date which shall not be less than 35 days nor more than 90 days after the date in which the vacancy occurred.”

“By-elections for local authorities do not depend on a proclamation by the 2nd Respondent.”

“Thus ZEC, the 1st Respondent cannot hide behind the omissions or commissions of the 2nd Respondent the President of the Republic of Zimbabwe.”

“The 3rd Respondent’s decision, therefore has nothing to do with science. It has nothing to do with COVID-19.”

Despite the recalls, there are other vacancies that have occurred as a result of deaths on sitting MPs and councillors.

Notable deaths include those of Miriam Mushayi (Kuwadzana East), Patrick Chidhakwa (Marondera East), Masango Matambanadzo (Kwekwe Central). There are some councillors that have also passed on.

ZEC on 9 September this year announced that by-elections will be held on 5 December 2020 and the nomination court would seat on 5 October.

But Vice President and substantive health minister Constantino Chiwenga decreed the suspension of the polls citing the Covid-19 menace, a reason that is being dismissed by political parties which argue that WHO guidelines in fact permitted the holding of elections.

In Africa, the country with the highest Covid-19 cases is South Africa which has recorded 680 000 cases and 16 866 deaths.

However on the 11th of November 2020 across 461 voting districts, the neighbouring country will hold local authority elections.

Zimbabwe has had lower Covid-19 cases with just under 8 000 infections and 228 deaths.