Battle over new boundaries rages on
ZANU PF’s Tonderai Chidawa has responded to Speaker of the National Assembly Jacob Mudenda (pictured), stating that the legal battle over the preliminary delimitation report is still on despite Parliament raising jurisdiction issues.
Chidawa, also Zimbabwe Youth Action Platform chairperson, filed his heads of argument on Wednesday and the case now awaits hearing before the Constitutional Court.
In his response to Mudenda, Chidawa insisted that the Con Court was the right platform to hear his concerns.
“The question before the court still remains whether Parliament failed to fulfil a constitutional obligation when it purportedly complied with section 161 (8) of the constitution,” he said.
“I’m advised that jurisdiction is largely a matter of pleadings. All I want determined is whether Parliament failed to fulfil a constitutional obligation. Only this court has jurisdiction to determine that question.
“Further, there are no material factual issues warranting an answer. I persist with the case I pleaded in my founding affidavit and also still stand by all the factual averments in my founding affidavit.”
Chidawa took Parliament to court early this year for accepting the controversial Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) preliminary delimitation report.
He wants the court to nullify the parliamentary proceedings, arguing that the legislature violated its constitutional duty to ensure the accountability of state institutions when it accepted the report submitted by ZEC.
Chidawu feels the report which was tabled before Parliament on 6 January 2023 should have been investigated first.
He argues that the unsigned draft delimitation report presented to President Emmerson Mnangagwa by Zec on 26 December and tabled in Parliament days later, might not be a product of Zec as a body corporate but just two members of the commission.
In his initial Con Court application, he said the draft report was overwhelmingly rejected by seven of the nine Zec commissioners and as such should not have been forwarded to the President.
On Monday this week, Mudenda defended Parliament, arguing that its decision to accept the report was not compromised.
“What the applicant is asking Parliament to do is unconstitutional.
“Parliament was not required to conduct any investigations under Section 161(8) of the Constitution, other than to remand, consider or analyse the report which the President caused to be laid before it in terms of Section 161 (7) of the Constitution.
“The document which is allegedly authored by the seven Zec Commissioners did not disown the Preliminary Delimitation Report,” said Mudenda.
He added: “It is more of an expression of opinion by the seven Commissioners and they never affirmed that the Delimitation exercise was hijacked by one or two commissioners as alleged or at all.
“Their opinion is that the Delimitation exercise was not people centred and that the format of the Report was difficult to understand issues which Parliament could also pick by considering the same Report under Section 161 (8) of the Constitution.”
Mudenda also argued that Parliament had no authority to halt or stop a constitutional process which had commenced under section 161 (7) of the constitution as it would have been unconstitutional to do so.
Parliament feels Chidawu’s application was rushed and is unlawfully before the courts.
“In view of this, the Honourable Court should not entertain this matter as it will end up interfering with other arms or departments of Government,” he said.
The report was tabled before Parliament on 6 January this year.
Chidawu then argued that Parliament failed to fulfil its constitutional obligation. Earlier, Chidawu had written a letter to Mudenda raising his queries and also demanding an investigation.
He said no reasonable person applying his or her mind to the document signed by seven out of nine members of Zec would fail to conclude that there is a reasonably strong basis for the suspicion that the preliminary delimitation report tabled in Parliament was not an act of Zec as a body corporate.
The report has divided Zec and Zanu PF, with opposition members also criticising it for being flawed.
If granted, Chidawa’s challenge could reverse Zec’s delimitation process ahead of harmonised elections to be held later this year.
The current challenge could result in elections — due in the second half of this year — being held under old constituency boundaries drawn over 10 years ago. The row has also brought to the fore Zanu PF factional fights.
It is reported that Vice-President Constantino Chiwenga and spy boss Isaac Moyo are backing Zec chairperson Justice Priscilla Chigumba and her deputy Rodney Simukai Kiwa.