‘…economy too weak to afford polls’
A deregistered lawyer, Tapera Sengweni, has dragged President Emmerson Mnangagwa and the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) to court in a fresh bid to block the March 26 by-elections, arguing they are a waste of resources and were supposed to have been held within the stipulated timeframe.
Sengweni, an MDC-T activist and a close ally of faction leader Douglas Mwonzora (pictured), is the first applicant in the matter in which Vinnah Mbele, Edify Kudzaishe Vushoma and Phanuel Tsvanu are the other applicants suing Mnangagwa and ZEC who are the first and second respondents respectively.
Sengweni, a former MDC-T Midlands South youth assembly provincial chairperson, who gave his address as house number 1 405, 238th Crescent, Kuwadzana 2 in Harare, argued in his founding affidavit on 2 March 2022 that Mnangagwa failed to call by-elections within the stipulated time hence he is seeking a court order to declare the proclamations unconstitutional, therefore null and void.
“This is an application for a determination that the first respondent failed to call for by-elections in all the 28 House of Assembly seats and council seats within the time stipulated by the constitution of Zimbabwe and therefore an order declaring that the two purported proclamations above are unconstitutional, therefore null and void ab initio,” Sengweni’s founding affidavit read in part.
He argued that it was his expectation Mnangagwa would call by-elections within the set timeframe but the Zimbabwean leader “failed or refused, neglected or absconded from proclaiming dates for the by-elections.”
“As a citizen of this country, I believe in the full and correct interpretation and application of the national constitution. In other words, I have an unalienable right to the correct and timeous interpretation and effect of the national constitution,” Sengweni said.
Sengweni also argued that by-elections were a waste of resources, an argument previously raised by the Mwonzora camp in a bid last year to stop the by-elections.
“In any event, there is no need for by-elections now. This country is due to hold its harmonised elections in the next 16 months. It is prudent to wait for that date.”
“As a small economy, Zimbabwe has financial challenges that are affecting the greater majority of its population. The government is struggling to pay its employees a living wage. It is not prudent to drag the country into another plebiscite whose outcome does not change the numerical configuration of Parliament in any way,” he said.
By-elections were necessitated largely by recalls of MDC-Alliance members of Parliament and councillors who were accused by Mwonzora of having expelled themselves from his party by declaring allegiance to the Nelson Chamisa-led party.
This followed a March 2020 High Court ruling that nullified the appointment of Chamisa and Elias Mudzuri as vice presidents of the MDC-T by the party’s founding leader Morgan Tsvangirai.
The High Court ruling was interpreted to mean that the party returns to the 2014 structures until the holding of an extraordinary congress to elect Tsvangirai’s replacement following his death in February 2019.
Mnangagwa was expected to proclaim the date for the by-elections within 90 days but Vice-President and Health Minister Constantino Chiwenga, through Statutory Instrument 225A of 2020, blocked the holding of the polls, citing Covid-19.
This was despite that several countries in and out of Africa were holding elections in the Covid-19 era.