Election date proclamation due
IN terms of the constitution, President Emmerson Mnangagwa must proclaim a date for this year’s general elections starting from Thursday this week, the Election Resource Centre (ERC) has said.
Zimbabwe last held elections on 31 July 2018 and citizens are anticipating this year’s round of polls, but there are fears the ruling Zanu PF in conjunction with the smaller opposition MDC-Alliance outfit led by Douglas Mwonzora are rooting for a postponement.
Mwonzora has already gone to court to seek postponement of the elections, citing irregularities in the delimitation exercise.
However, ERC executive director Babra Ontibile Bhebhe told The NewsHawks on Thursday that Mnangagwa is obliged by the Electoral Act to proclaim the election date between 4 May and 26 July.
“According to section 38 of the Constitution of Zimbabwe, a general election (harmonised election) must be held so that polling takes place not more than 30 days before the expiry of the five-year period which runs from the date on which the President-elect is sworn in and assumes office. President ED Mnangagwa was sworn in on 26 August 2018. The 30-day period before the expiry of the presidential term runs from 27 July-26 August 2023,” she said.
She explained that Mnangagwa is mandated to fix the date for the elections after consulting the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission but the proclamation of election day has timelines that are clear at law.
“According to section 38 of the Electoral Act, the President must fix a date for a general election and elections for councillors, members of Parliament and the President, after consultation with the commission. The proclamation must take into consideration the factor of the Nomination Court which must sit at least 14 and not more than 21 days after the day of publication of the proclamation for the purpose of receiving nominations of candidates for election,” she said.
Bhebhe added that polling day must be at least 30 and not more than 63 days after the sitting of the nomination court.
“Taking into account the timelines for the sitting of the nomination court and the possible election dates between 27 July 2023-26 August 2023 the President may only make a proclamation between any of the following dates: 4 May 2023-13 July 2023.
“While the authority to proclaim an election date is vested in the President of Zimbabwe, the President is guided by aforementioned timelines and must consult the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission before proclaiming,” said Bhebhe.
Early this week, Citizens’ Coalition for Change (CCC) spokesperson Fadzayi Mahere (pictured) dismissed the possibility of the postponement of the elections in a statement.
“The constitutional requirement that elections be held every five years can’t be suspended by political elites who have no support from the citizens and are afraid of electoral loss. Zanu PF and its proxies are terrified of how much support they have lost and are seeking to use whatever harebrained plan they can think of to try and stop the process.
“We call upon citizens to continue demanding adherence to the constitution. Elections are like Christmas, you can’t postpone them as they will come whether or not you have new clothes.
“Elections are a constitutional non-negotiable. Citizens must be at the centre of all national processes. We reject the notion of elite pacts or a Government of National Unity or whatever basis put forward. Done properly, elections are a true expression of the will of the people and a total necessity in a democracy,” she said.
ZESN board chairperson and lawyer Andrew Makoni said: “In terms of section 158 of the constitution, elections must be held not more than 30 days before the expiry of the five year term of office of the president.
This means that the elections can be held at least 30 days before the date the president was inaugurated.
“In terms of section 38 of the Electoral Act, the president shall fix a place or places and day or days , at least 14 and not more than 21 days of publication, on which a nomination court shall sit for purposes of receiving nominations of candidates and a day or days, at least 30 and not more than 63 days after the nomination day or last nomination day, on which a poll shall be takes place.
“So from the date of nomination to date of election, the election date must be within 63 days, which is just over two months, unless of course section 38 is amended to provide for lessor or longer duration. Therefore, if for instance the date of proclamation of the election is the 31st of May, elections must be held at most by August 2 2023,” Makoni said.