Wednesday, 27 May 2015

By-Elections and Abuse of the Zimbabwean Constitution by Political Parties

Position Paper 1

Issued 27 May 2015

1.  The Committee of the Peoples Charter (CPC) has noted with great misgiving the development of a culture of abusing Section 129 (1k) of the new constitution as it relates to by-elections for Members of Parliament.  This section states that the seat of a Member of Parliament may become vacant if;

“ the Member has ceased to belong to the political party of which he or she was a member when elected to Parliament and the political party concerned, by written notice to the Speaker or the President of the Senate, as the case may be, has declared that the member has ceased to do so’

It is this section that has occasioned at least 19 constituency by-elections in Zimbabwe thus far into the tenure of this current Parliament. 

1.2 While the CPC holds no brief for political parties it is important that given the context of political party factionalism in both opposition and ruling parties be these unfortunate political developments be placed and analysed through social democratic lenses and national context.

In a constituency based and largely ‘first past the post’ system such as ours ‘by-elections’ are democratic processes that would usually occur in the event of the resignation or death of a sitting Member of Parliament.

1.3 In terms of the same Section 129 of the new constitution, by-elections can also occur where a sitting Member of Parliament: 

ü  ceases to be a registered voter,

ü  is absent without leave for 21 consecutive days from either house

ü  becomes president or vice president of the country;

ü  becomes a Speaker or President of the National Assembly and Senate respectively 

ü  is convicted of a criminal offence

ü  is declared insolvent

ü  takes up other public office roles (parastatals, provincial councils)

1.4 Some of these provisions have been used sparingly in the current tenure of the current Parliament.  Examples include the passing away of members of Parliament, the appointment of one Member of Parliament to the post of vice president and the removal of another from the same post after the 2013 harmonised general election.

They have however been utilized with at an alarmingly disproportionate rate to the above cited examples where and when it applies with subsection (k) in relation to political parties writing letters to the speaker or president of the senate. 

It is a development that has led to the holding of at least 19 by elections for constituency members of the National Assembly and the Senate.  It has also affected proportional representation members of both houses.

1.5 The CPC views these developments as cases of abuse of the constitution by political parties that are still represented in Parliament.  At an estimated cost of US$36 million as given by the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC), these by-elections are not only an unnecessary drain on meagre resources that the country does not have but are an inherent abuse of state resources to essentially settle internal and personal scores as they derive from leaders of political parties. 

1.6 These resources can and could have been used to refurbish dilapidated public infrastructure, provide desperately needed medicines or at the very least contributed to the payment of the Basic Education Assistance Model (BEAM) deficits that are affecting disadvantaged school children. 

1.7 Furthermore, the lack of absolute necessity of these elections caused by factionalism in political parties has essentially led to the country being in perpetual election mode for parliamentary seats that do not affect the nature or effect of executive authority in Zimbabwe.

This is to say, they have no direct bearing or cliff-hanger effect on the composition of Parliament or the structure of government.  They serve more to reconfigure internal party politics than the public democratic interest. 

1.8 For political parties to continue to subject voters to elections that are not based on democratic principles but a positivist reading of the law to serve their internal problems point to the sad reality that political party constitutions and internal processes are what really matter in Parliament.  This as opposed to the functions of the legislature as outlined in Chapter 6 (Part 6) of the constitution.

1.9  While all Zimbabweans have the right to associate and vote for leaders of their choice, it would be a sad day for the future of our continually struggling democracy  if political parties treated the people and the electorate as canon- fodder every time internal party disputes arise.

2.0 It is therefore the firm view of the CPC that while these by-elections may be permissible at law, they are however evidence of an undemocratic culture of entitlement by political parties, especially where this is done through attempting to solve internal party disputes via national institutions and processes at great economic and democratic cost to the country. 

Issued by the CPC Information Department

Friday, 22 May 2015


Issued 22 May 2015

The Committee of the Peoples Charter (CPC) joins the African community and her Diaspora in commemorating Africa Day. This year’s commemorations are held under the theme: 2015 and Beyond: Engaging Agenda 2063.

On this day the CPC salutes the selfless sacrifice made by the African people and their leadership, (living and departed) in ridding the continent of slavery, colonialism and apartheid in an endeavour to make Africa a better continent for all who live on it.

Today we stand guided by the commitment made by our leaders in the drafting and actualization of Agenda 2063: A vision for the Africa we want, as an important and critical step in addressing the myriad of challenges afflicting the continent.

Agenda 2063 is premised mainly on the development of the African continent through   the ability of the African citizenry and governments to put mobilization and ownership of continental programmes at the core.  It is also driven by the principle of self-reliance of the continent in financing its own development; the importance on capable, inclusive and accountable states and institutions at all levels and in all spheres, the critical role of Regional Economic Communities as building blocks for continental unity, and holding ourselves and our governments and institutions accountable for results.
Agenda 2063 lays down seven important aspirations in pursuit of the Africa we want as follows:

1)      A prosperous Africa based on inclusive growth and sustainable development

2)      An integrated continent, politically united and based on the ideals of Pan Africanism and the vision of Africa’s Renaissance

3)      An Africa of good governance, democracy, respect for human rights, justice and the rule of law

4)      A peaceful and secure Africa

5)      An Africa with a strong cultural identity, common heritage, values and ethics

6)      An Africa where development is people-driven, unleashing the potential of its women and youth

7)      Africa as a strong, united and influential global player and partner

Today gives us the opportunity to take stock and reflect on the strides and endeavours made by our leaders, as individual member states and as a collective in pursuit of these aspirations.

Of note is the effort made towards the attainment of the aspiration of good governance, democracy, and respect for human rights, justice and the rule of law. This aspiration is the cornerstone to the attainment of Agenda 2063, but that continues to get little regard from the continents leadership as corruption, civil wars, human rights abuse and acts of terrorism continue unabated.

In Zimbabwe today, the state of the nation is a far cry from the aforementioned aspirations, as evidenced by the growing gap between the haves and have-nots, the poor and the rich and more importantly the electorate and the elected. It seems today that public office is no longer there to serve the people but has become  an instrument to ensure only  those with the political connections continue to have space at the feeding trough. This, unfortunately, is a far cry from the ideal of equal opportunities that drove the 33 independent states that met in 1963 to form the Organization of African Unity (OAU), today known as the African Union (AU).

The CPC takes the occasion of Africa Day 2015, to remind the government of Zimbabwe of the commitment it has made, together with other African states, in pursuit of Agenda 2063. The Committee particularly implores on the government to seriously consider the state of the national economy, as it thrives to ensure that all citizens are given an equal opportunity to self-actualization without a bias of political affiliation, race, ethnicity or religion. 

More so, the government should take reasonable measures to ensure that development is people-driven, unleashes the potential of women and youth, as equal partners and stakeholders in the sustainable development of our beautiful nation.

Issued by the CPC Information Department