PARLIAMENT says it will recall legislators from their Christmas break early to debate the delimitation report which the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) submitted to President Emmerson Mnangagwa on Monday.
The report must be tabled before Parliament within seven working days, despite the august House having adjourned last week to January 24, next year.
Clerk of Parliament, Kennedy Chokuda yesterday told NewsDay that MPs will be called back to discuss the delimitation report.
“Going by the conditions it’s very clear that once the President receives the report, then it will be tabled before Parliament in seven days. Yes, it will come and be debated,” Chokuda said.
Parliament then has 14 sitting days in which to debate the report, which promises to be very robust as there have been squabbles between the main political parties over the process and failure by Zec to avail the electronic voters roll.
Parliament will return the report to Mnangagwa, who may refer it back to Zec for further consideration.
“Timelines for elections are provided for by the law. So, it doesn’t matter when you start or finish, you still have to obey the timelines provided for at law and you can’t change the timelines which are written in the law,” Presidential spokesperson George Charamba told NewsDay yesterday.
“If you look at the delimitation process, it is the one which triggers all processes and it’s not like you can hurry faster or slowly — it has to be done in terms of stipulated processes and it’s a very delicate process.
“Thereafter, when the submission of the report has been done, then the law kicks in. The law is a strait jacket, you can’t change it. If it says seven days then it’s seven days from whenever you start and when it says 14 days it remains 14 days. So, it talks about seven days, and this means seven working days, excluding holidays and weekends. When they talk about 14 days, they mean 14 sitting days in Parliament and Parliament sits between Tuesday and Friday so that’s how you calculate the timelines.”
On whether legislators have inadequate time to debate the report, Charamba responded: “That’s why there are 14 sitting days provided for in the Constitution, it’s for them to study the report. What it means is that they must drift back from Christmas vacation and come back to work.
“The President came back from his holiday to receive the report because he was mindful of the timelines, and in the same spirit, legislators must also break from Christmas and report for duty to sit (debate) in Parliament because in seven days’ time or even before, the report has to be tabled; which means Parliament might have to be recalled.”
But opposition and observers have warned that the speed with which the delimitation process is being implemented raises eyebrows.
Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) chief whip Prosper Mutseyami said: “It’s all about constitutionalism and as Members of Parliament, I wouldn’t know if anyone had accessed that report. We have not accessed it but once we do, we will speak to the report as in what we would have seen on how the delimitation would have come up. As I am speaking, we haven’t received the report, nor have we been recalled to Parliament. But when it comes, we would be obliged to attend and put our voices there regardless of timing.”
National Constitutional Assembly leader Lovemore Madhuku said the period to table the preliminary delimitation report before Parliament was very “suspicious and undemocratic.”
“This means that the report must be tabled before Parliament by January 3. It’s a very undemocratic period that they have chosen for their presentation of the report.
“The period is very suspicious to do such an important thing, and that must be condemned. The process must be presented when all people are quite active, you don’t do it when everyone is on holiday. It seems they are trying to jump certain stages.”
Election Resource Centre programmes manager Solomon Bobosibunu said: “As far as the errors are concerned in the delimitation report, it’s still at the preliminary stage, not the final one, so we would not be able to conclusively condemn or accept that the process is okay. It is likely that there are errors and omissions.”
He said the role of Parliament was to flag the anomalies in the delimitation report.
“After that process is complete, they have to take it back to the electoral commission for consideration. We just call for Zec to listen to the comments that would be coming from all stakeholders including political parties so that those issues are addressed,” Bobosibunu said.
Zimbabwe Election Advocacy Trust executive director Ignatious Sadziwa said the timing was unconstitutional, adding that they would be challenging the matter at the courts.
“It’s bizarre and unbecoming on the part of Zec and the office of the President and Cabinet to conduct such an illegal operation in disregard of clearly spelt out provisions of the Constitution. This is embarrassing.
Delimitation of boundaries is a very important component in elections and any careless handling of it renders elections illegitimate and not credible.
“This is a wanton violation of the Constitution at the highest level. This is a political process which has nothing to do with delimitation and we will challenge this at the courts.”