Concourt reserves ZEC judgment
Daniel Nemukuyu Senior Court Reporter
The Constitutional Court has reserved judgment in a case in which a Harare lawyer is challenging the constitutionality of 192(6) of the Electoral Act, which gives the Minister of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs powers to approve or disapprove regulations formulated by the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC).
ZEC, being an independent commission, can craft regulations guiding its operations, but the same regulations are handed over to the minister who approves them before forwarding them to Parliament.
That approval process sparked debate in the legal circles, resulting in Harare lawyer Mr Justice Alfred Mavedzenge filing a challenge at the apex court.
The minister’s involvement, according to Mr Mavedzenge, amounts to interference and it also undermines the independence of ZEC. In the application, Mr Mavedzenge cited Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa as a respondent in his capacity as the minister in charge of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs.
He also listed ZEC chairperson Justice Rita Makarau and Attorney-General Prince Machaya as respondents. The full bench of the Constitutional Court yesterday heard arguments in the matter before indefinitely deferring judgment. Chief Justice Luke Malaba, sitting with eight other judges, constituted the apex court. Mr Mavedzenge argued that the involvement of the minister in ZEC operations was a violation of his right to a free and fair election.
On behalf Mr Mavedzenge, Harare lawyer Mr Tazorora Musarurwa argued that Section 192(6) of the Act allowed the minister to control ZEC.
“It provides the minister with discretionary power on the regulations and such discretion amounts to giving him control over ZEC,” he said.
“The minister has power to approve or disapprove. Handing over the regulations to the minister is tantamount to giving him control over an independent Commission. Section 192(6) must be struck off the statutes.”
Appearing for the minister and the AG, Mrs Olivia Zvedi argued that the minister’s role of approving the regulations did not amount to interference. “The regulation-making process is independently undertaken by ZEC without any undue pressure from the minister,” she said.
Mrs Zvedi urged the court to throw out the challenge, saying the minister, being the one accountable to Parliament, was entitled to knowing regulations that he tables before the august House.