Constituency registration not law: Veritas

TEMBA mliswa2

Temba Mliswa

VERITAS, a respected local legislative watchdog which is advocating for the replacement of the Electoral Act in its entirety because it is confusing, says it is not a constitutional requirement for a candidate for a National Assembly seat to be a registered voter in the constituency in which they are contesting.
Commenting on the controversy that has arisen over whether ZANU-PF’s Keith Guzah, who was declared winner of the June 10 Hurungwe West by-election, was validly nominated to stand for the constituency, the group said this week that the law does not require a candidate to be registered in a particular constituency, but just to be a registered voter.
“All the Constitution says about qualifications for a constituency candidate is that a person is qualified for election as a member of the National Assembly if ‘registered as a voter’ and at least 21 years old,” Veritas pointed out.
“The Constitution does not say that a constituency candidate must be registered on the constituency voters’ roll. If this had been intended it would have said so directly — in the same way as sections 274 and 275, which state that an urban or rural councillor must be a registered voter in the urban or rural area concerned.”
It added: “The Electoral Act cannot validly add a qualification for a constituency candidate that is not in the Constitution. And, in fact, it does not say anything about whether a candidate for a constituency seat must be registered on the voters’ roll of the constituency for which he is standing. What the Act does say is that, if a candidate (presumably wanting to show good will and getting more backing in a constituency that has asked him/her to stand as its candidate) wants to transfer his registration as a voter from another constituency to the one in which he/she intends to stand, he/she may do so (Section 23(1) of the Act). But there is nothing in the Electoral Act which compels a candidate to do so, and an inference cannot be drawn from this section that he/ she has to do so.”
Losing candidate in the Hurungwe West by-election Temba Mliswa is seeking Guzah’s victory nullified on the basis that his name did not appear on the constituency’s voters’ roll. The matter is before the Electoral Court which itself Veritas has repeatedly pointed as unconstitutionally constituted.
This is what Veritas says on the Electoral Court: “This is constituted as a separate court under the Act, though it is staffed by judges of the High Court. Under Section 183 of the Constitution, judges cannot be appointed to sit in more than one court, so their appointment to both the High Court and the Electoral Court is unconstitutional. The simple remedy is to re-create the Electoral Court as a specialised division of the High Court.”
Since last year, Veritas has been pushing for a new Electoral Act arguing that as it stands, it cannot be seamlessly realigned with the provisions of the new Constitution which came into force two years ago.
“The Electoral Act should be replaced entirely because it has been amended too often that it is difficult to find out what its provisions actually are,” it said. “Many of its provisions, to the extent that they can be ascertained, contain errors and anomalies.”
The watchdog has been suggesting that the new Act should be prepared by or under the supervision of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission, after all interested parties have been consulted.