Our hands are tied, says Makarau

makarauDaniel Nemukuyu Senior Court Reporter
Zimbabwe Electoral Commission chairperson Justice Rita Makarau says the commission cannot take over the responsibility of voter registration, and maintaining registers from the Registrar-General’s Office in the absence of an enabling Act of Parliament. Responding to an application by ZAPU leader Dr Dumiso Dabengwa seeking an order compelling ZEC to immediately take over duties of voter registration and maintaining voters’ rolls and registers in line with the new Constitution, Justice Makarau said the enabling law was not yet in place.

The judge agreed with Dr Dabengwa’s argument that in terms of Section 239(c) of the new Constitution, ZEC has the responsibility of all the stated electoral duties but disputed further claims that the commission was sleeping on duty.

“I do not dispute the arguments made in this regard as they reflect the correct position as enunciated in Section 239 of the Constitution of Zimbabwe, paragraph (c), (d) and (e) thereof.

“I respectfully disagree, however, with the view taken by the applicants that the first respondent (ZEC) has failed and or neglected to perform the duties so entrusted to it by the Constitution…

“In terms of Section 157 (1) of the Constitution, however, an Act of Parliament must provide for the conduct of elections and referendums and make particular provisions for the registration of voters and requirements for registration on particular voters’ rolls.

“I respectively submit that no such law as envisioned by the Constitution, has been put in place.

“I, therefore, contend that there is no law regulating the registration of voters and requirements for registration on particular voters’ rolls as we speak,” said Justice Makarau.

Nyika, Kanengoni and Partners law firm is representing ZEC while the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights is acting for Dr Dabengwa.

Dr Dabengwa wants ZEC to comply with the law by taking over from the Registrar-General’s Office duties like registering voters, compiling its own voters’ rolls, keeping and maintaining voters’ rolls and ensuring that the public has access to the voters’ roll as provided for in terms of the Constitution.

He also seeks an order for ZEC to provide the interested public with soft or hard copies of the voters’ roll on request.

It is Dr Dabengwa’s argument that in the 2013 election, Section 6(2) of Part 3 of the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution gave the Registrar of Voters authority to perform some of the election duties under the supervision of ZEC, but that future elections should now be conducted in terms of Section 239(c) of the new Constitution.

Since August 10 last year when Section 239(c) became operative, Cde Dabengwa argues, ZEC has not yet complied with the law.

Dr Dabengwa’s application filed under Electoral Court Number 01/14, is yet to be set down for hearing.

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