President Mugabe has proclaimed March 27 as the date for by-elections in Mount Darwin West and Chirumanzu-Zibagwe parliamentary constituencies. The two seats fell vacant following the elevation of Cde Emmerson Mnangagwa (Chirumanzu -Zibagwe) to the post of Vice President on December 10 last year and Cde Joice Mujuru (Mt Darwin West) when she assumed the same Government post on September 11, 2013.
Cde Mujuru has since been fired for behaviour inconsistent with her official responsibilities in the discharge of her duties, including plotting to kill the President.
President Mugabe announced the new date in an extraordinary Government Gazette published on Saturday, saying the nomination courts would sit on January 29 to receive nomination papers of interested candidates for the two constituencies.
The President said in terms of section 46 of the Electoral Act (Chapter 2:13) the nomination courts would sit at the Magistrates Court, Main Street, Bindura and the Magistrates Courts Main Street, Gweru.
“Whereas as it is provided by section 39 (2) of the Electoral Act (Chapter 2:13), that after the President has been notified in terms of the said section of a vacancy among the constituency members of the National Assembly, he shall issue a proclamation ordering a new election to fill the vacancy in the same manner, mutatis mutandis, as is provided in section 38 of the Act in regard to a general election;
“And whereas it is provided by section 129 (1) (c) of the Constitution that the seat of a Member of Parliament becomes vacant upon the member becoming President or Vice President;
“And whereas the speaker of the National Assembly has notified me in writing of vacancies in the National Assembly due to the successive appointments to the office of Vice President of Joice Mujuru, who was the elected member of the National Assembly for Mount Darwin West constituency and Emmerson Dambudzo Mnangagwa who was the elected Member of the National Assembly for the Chirumanzu – Zibagwe constituency;
“Now, therefore, under and by virtue of the powers vested in the President as afore said, I do by this proclamation: order new elections for the constituencies of Mount Darwin West and Chirumanzu – Zibagwe, fix Friday 27th March 2015 as the day on which a poll shall be taken if a poll become necessary in terms of section 46 (17) (c) of the Electoral Act (Chapter 2: 13) for the election of Members of the National Assembly for the constituencies of Mount Darwin West and Chirumanzu-Zibagwe.”
Constitution of Zimbabwe Amendment (No. 20) Act of 2013 that deals with the tenure of seat of a Member of Parliament stipulates that, “the seat of a Member of Parliament shall become vacant upon the Member becoming President or Vice President.”
Cde Mujuru was, thus, going to Parliament as Vice President, not as Member of Parliament.
Cde Mnangagwa’s National Assembly seat automatically became vacant by operation of the law when he assumed the Office of Vice President of Zimbabwe last month.
The pair does not qualify for the by-elections because in terms of Section 103 of the Constitution, they cannot be legislators let alone hold any other form of employment.
Reads the section: “The President and Vice President, and any former President or Vice-President , must not, directly or indirectly, hold any other public office or be employed by anyone else while they are in office or are receiving a pension from the State as former President or Vice-President, as the case may be.”
At law, Vice Presidents are not Members of Parliament, although they can sit there for debate, be leader of the House, conduct business there, but they do not vote.
While there has been speculation in some quarters as to what would become of VP Phelekezela Mphoko within 90 days if he did not find a seat, the same constitutional provision that strips VPs of their membership of the legislature means VP Mphoko does not need a seat to sit in the August House or retain his post as Vice President of Zimbabwe.
Cde Mphoko was last month appointed as the second Vice President.