THE Zanu PF-led government is reportedly busy tying up all loose ends, including fast-tracking passage of the delimitation report, election-related legislation in Parliament and bussing its members to register on the voters roll as part of a wider plot to call an early election that will find the opposition ill-prepared, NewsDay Weekender has heard.
According to the Constitution, the country is supposed to hold general elections between July 27 and August 26, but legal think-tank Veritas has warned that there are machinations to dissolve Parliament and call an early election.
Veritas, in its latest weekly Election Watch report, said the fast-tracking of election-linked Bills raised eyebrows.
“There are straws in the wind which may point to an early election. Government may be trying to get important Bills through Parliament quickly so that Parliament can close for an early election,” Veritas said.
“Some of the Bills could be seen as strengthening the ruling party’s grip on society in advance of an election: the PVOs [Private Voluntary Organisations] Amendment Bill and the ‘Patriot Bill’, for example. To say there have been problems with delimitation is putting it mildly. The preliminary delimitation report that was presented to the President on December 26 was deeply flawed, as we pointed out in our Election Watches 1/2023 and 2/2023 and as Parliament pointed out in its report to the President. No one seems to like the report, except perhaps the chairperson of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission and her deputy.”
Last week, Justice minister Ziyambi Ziyambi sought leave to move a motion to allow Parliament to sit from Tuesday to Friday to deal with various stages of the Bills, which Veritas said might signify that the ruling party wants early polls.
Some of the outstanding Bills that are before Parliament include the Judicial Laws Amendment Bill, National Security Council Bill, Prisons and Correctional Services Bill, Child Justice Bill, Police Amendment Bill and the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Bill.
Besides the fast-tracked Parliament business, concerns have also been raised over the speed at which Zec is pushing for adoption of the delimitation report.
“As we explained in our earlier Election Watches, delimitation must be completed at least six months before polling day in an election if it is to be used for that election (section 161(2) of the Constitution) and — unless Parliament is dissolved early — the next general election must be held between July 28 and August 26 this year.
“So if this delimitation report is to be used in the mid-year election, it must have been published between January 28 (for an election held on July 28) and February 26 (for an election on August 26).
“The report is already too late for a July election, and the deadline for an August election is fast approaching and probably cannot be met,” Veritas said yesterday.
“There is another factor militating against early completion of the final delimitation report.
“Seven Zec commissioners apparently dissociated themselves from the preliminary report and said that a proper delimitation should be conducted after this year’s elections — implying that the elections would have to be held using existing electoral boundaries.”
It added: “Those seven commissioners are unlikely to agree to a final delimitation report based on the flawed preliminary report, but their votes will be needed for Zec to approve the final report — Zec has only nine commissioners altogether, including the chairperson and deputy chairperson.
“If the seven commissioners cannot agree to a final report, then it will be impossible for Zec to meet any deadline, however long.
“If a final delimitation report cannot be produced in time, and existing electoral boundaries remain in place, an early election will be easier to arrange because it will not be necessary to reorganise and relocate polling stations, constituency centres and so on.”
Yesterday, Zec chairperson Priscilla Chigumba handed over a revised draft of the delimitation report to President Emmerson Mnangagwa at State House, saying she had incorporated some of the submissions made by MPs and the President.
“There were a lot of concerns raised but in responses which we have submitted to the President, we have taken each concern one by one. We have explained where we have agreed that there is need for correction. We have not been shy to say that there was an error, where we felt that the concern has no merit, we said so. Consequent upon those corrections that we have made, we have redrawn some boundaries and aspects,” she said.
But constitutional law expert Lovemore Madhuku expressed reservations over Zec’s latest move.
“There is no constitutional provision for them to do that. The Constitution provides for them to give the President only the final report which he should then gazette within 14 days. Nonetheless, they will not be violating any law if they do that because the same Constitution does not prohibit them to do so,” Madhuku said.
He, however, dismissed speculation that government was planning to push for early elections.
“There is speeding up of government business to close Parliament early to release the ministers, who are also Members of Parliament and give them more time to go and campaign in their constituencies. A resolution to have elections at an earlier date is passed in Parliament and the legislators are the ones who pass it. So it does not make sense for them to push for an earlier date because they need time to campaign for a resounding victory. The speculation for an earlier date is therefore baseless. It is raised by non-politicians.”
Political analyst Vivid Gwede said an early election would advantage Zanu PF over the opposition.
“But more importantly in the sense that the delimitation process would not be completed and other electoral reforms will be put aside. Zanu PF will also be relying on its incumbency and friends for campaign finances,” he said.
Opposition Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) spokesperson Fadzayi Mahere said her party has always been ready for elections.
“We have been preparing for these elections for over a year and have conducted the largest mass mobilisation project across all provinces, rural and urban constituencies and across all cross sections of society. We are ready for the polls whenever they come. We are confident that Zanu PF can never win a free and fair election in Zimbabwe,” she said.
Zanu PF spokesperson Christopher Mutsvangwa also said: “We are ready whenever the date is proclaimed. We have done everything necessary in preparation for the elections. What we are now waiting for is the proclamation of the election date by the President. We are not pushing for any date. We wait to hear from the Executive. But it is not a secret that Zanu PF has the majority in Parliament.”
MDC-T senator Morgan Komichi said there was no need to settle for an early election.
“Let’s follow the Constitution,” Komichi said.
“It will be undemocratic and autocratic to allow people to throw the country in a panic mode because of their fear of losing an election.”