By-Election Suspension Challenge Ruling Reserved

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By Mary Taruvinga

THE High Court on Monday reserved judgement on an application by Women’s Academy for Leadership and Political Excellence (WALPE) seeking an order to compel President Emmerson Mnangagwa and the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) to set dates for by-elections in compliance with the Constitution and Electoral Act.

The court challenge follows the suspension of by-elections last year by the Ministry of Health and Child Care citing the Covid-19 threat.

This was despite ZEC having developed a Covid-19 policy on electoral activities with clear guidelines on how by-elections and other electoral processes would be conducted without exposing those involved to health risks.

Other applicants in the matter are the Election Resource Centre (ERC) and five citizens namely, Ellah Tayengwa, Agness Togarepi, Gracious Matsunga, David Gwanzura and Precious Choruma.

The applicants argued the unpopular decision by Health Minister and Vice President Constantino Chiwenga to indefinitely suspend the process was unfair.

Chiwenga, through Statutory Instrument 225 of 2020, indefinitely banned the holding of all by-elections as a precautionary measure against the spread of Covid-19. ZEC went on to endorse the policy stance.

In a supporting affidavit, Precious Choruma who is cited as the 2nd applicant, says the suspension was a breach of the Electoral Act and the Constitution.

“I seek a declarator in this case on the following terms; The 1st (ZEC) and 2nd (President Emmerson Mnangagwa) 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.

“That SI 225A/2020 is ultra vires Section 39 and 121A of the Electoral Act. That SI 225A/2020 is ultra vires Section 158 of the Constitution of Zimbabwe,” she said, adding, “It is my respectful contention that the same are; Ultra vires Section 158 (2) and 159 of the Constitution Ultra vires Section 39 and Section 121A of the Electoral Act.

“They are in any event irrational. In the circumstances, I this pray for an order in terms of the draft.”