The Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) says the High Court is silent on the verdict of an application challenge on government’s decision to suspend the holding of by elections six months after Justice Siyabona Musithu reserved judgement.
In October 2020, the government through Health Minister Constantino Chiwenga suspended the holding of by-elections under Statutory Instrument (SI) 225 of 2020. The SI indefinitely banned the holding of all by-elections to fill in a significant number of vacancies in both the National Assembly and local authorities as a result of recalls and deaths.
The ban of by-elections was challenged at the High Court on 13 October 2020 by Women’s Academy for Leadership and Political Excellence (WALPE), Election Resource Centre (ERC) and six Harare and Marondera residents namely Ellah Tayengwa, Moud Chinyerere, Agnes Togarepi, Gracious Matsunga, David Gwanzura and Loice Gwangwara.
According to the ZLHR the applicants through their lawyer Tendai Biti argued that the suspension was a breach of the Electoral Act and the Constitution.
“In the application filed by Tendai Biti of Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights, WALPE, ERC, Tayengwa, Chinyerere, Togarepi, Matsunga, Gwanzura and Gwangwara, who cited Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC), President Emmerson Mnangagwa and Chiwenga as respondents, argued that the suspension was a breach of the Electoral Act and the Constitution as government should have held by-elections before 30 September 2020 to fill in vacancies in local authorities and in the National Assembly.
“The Judge interrogated the lawyers on why government was reluctant to hold by-elections considering that it had eased national lockdown regulations including opening schools and universities. Justice Musithu also asked why government was averse to holding by-elections and yet other countries such as Tanzania and the United States of America had held polls recently,” said ZLHR
ZLHR said in reserving the judgement Justice Musithu indicated that he needed more time to go through submissions from involved parties.
“Six months after hearing an application challenging a government ban of by-elections, the High Court is yet to hand down its verdict. High Court Judge Justice Siyabona Musithu on Monday 24 May 2021 reserved judgment after presiding over the challenge of the by-elections ban and indicated that he needed more time to go through all the submissions from the parties involved before handing down his verdict on the application.” ZLHR said