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The electoral reform process is already underway, with the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission practically having taken over from the Registrar-General, the responsibility to register voters and conduct all national elections in terms of the new Constitution, Government has said.

Responding to a case in which MDC-T is challenging the constitutionality of holding elections before aligning the Electoral Act to the new supreme law, Government lawyers said while the Electoral Act was yet to be amended, credible elections could be held under prevailing conditions.

President Mugabe, together with Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Emmerson Mnangagwa, were listed in the application as the 4th and 5th respondents, respectively, in their official capacities and lawyers from the AG’s Office are representing them.

In the application filed in January this year, the Morgan Tsvangirai-led MDC-T sought to stop by-elections and any other polls before the alignment of the Electoral Act.

The party argued that ZEC, in terms of the new Constitution, was mandated to register voters, compile voters’ rolls and registers, ensure the proper custody and maintenance of voters’ rolls and registers, among others, but that it had not yet assumed those duties.

In the heads of argument filed last week by the AG’s Office, Government urged the Constitutional Court to dismiss the challenge, arguing that the objections raised in the matter were petty and could not stop a democratic electoral process.

“In practice, the first respondent (ZEC) has taken over all the responsibilities assigned to it in terms of the Constitution,” Government said.

“There is thus substantial harmony between the (Electoral) Act and the Constitution such that it is possible to carry out the democratic process of holding elections . . .

“The inconsistencies complained of are not so material as to warrant stopping the holding of any pending election.

“Some of these changes simply entail replacing the word “Registrar of Voters” with “Zimbabwe Electoral Commission” where this exists on paper,” read the heads of argument.

Government said the alignment of the Act had begun and that minor amendments could not stop an election.

“It is worth highlighting that the alignment of all legislation to the Constitution is a mammoth task, which cannot be completed overnight,” it said.

“The Government is, however, committed to the duty of aligning all legislation to the new Constitution.

“It would, however, defeat the very rights protected in terms of the Constitution if a democratic process is to be stopped because of minor changes, which ought to be effected to our law in line with the Constitution,” the papers read.

Government further argued that the holding of elections while alignment of laws was underway was permissible under the current legal framework in Zimbabwe.

The MDC-T, in the application, argued that failure by ZEC to commence voter registration by January 15, 2015, was a violation of Section 17A of the Constitution.

The party argued that the announcement by ZEC on January 24 this year that it was embarking on a voter registration and inspection of voters’ roll did not cure the “fatally defective status” of the current electoral environment.

Source : The Herald

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