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Parliament failed to declare the Mt Darwin West parliamentary seat vacant 15 months down the line after the incumbent, former Vice President Dr Joice Mujuru, ceased to represent the constituency when she assumed the post of VP on September 11 last year, the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission has said.

ZEC Acting Chief Elections Officer Mr Utoile Silaigwana yesterday said it was the responsibility of Parliament to aise the electoral body of any such vacancies.

He said from the time a seat was declared vacant, the role of ZEC was to devise and implement a roadmap for the by-election as guided by the Presidential notice issued in terms of Section 39 (2) of the Electoral Act [Chapter 2:13] ordering a new election to fill the vacancy. Section 129 (1) (c) of the Constitution of Zimbabwe Amendment (No. 20) Act of 2013 that deals with the tenure of seat of a Member of Parliament, stipulates that, “the seat of a Member of Parliament shall become vacant upon the Member becoming President or Vice President.”

However, Dr Mujuru has for the past 15 months been going to Parliament as Vice President, not as Member of Parliament since Vice Presidents are not Members of Parliament, with the house being mum on her status. “The filling of the vacancy to the membership of Parliament and the conduct of the by-election is regulated in terms of the law. In particular, Section 39 (1) of the Electoral Act [Chapter 2:13], provides for the notification in writing of all vacancies in Parliament to the President and the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission by the President of the Senate or the Speaker of the National Assembly as the case may be.

“It is only after such notification that the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission is required by law to conduct a by-election. The Commission did not and has to date not received any such notification in respect of the former Vice President Joice Mujuru’s constituency and thus it has no basis at law to conduct a by-election in that constituency,” said Mr Silaigwana.

Zanu-PF Chief Whip Cde Joram Gumbo, yesterday said the law was clear that Cde Mujuru ceased to be a legislator last year.

“Section 129 (1) (c) of the Constitution is clear that if one assumes the vice presidency, they cease to be parliamentarians if they were holding a seat. So it is clear that Cde Mujuru relinquished her seat last year when she was appointed vice president,” Cde Gumbo said.

However, Parliament was jolted to action after The Herald story yesterday.

Speaker of the National Assembly Cde Jacob Mudenda, told The Herald that the House was now seized with the status of former VP Mujuru, who was fired from Government last week with a view to determine her fate as a legislator. “We are addressing that issue in light of the developments that have taken place, which means we are looking at the law ,particularly the Constitution and the electoral law.”

Another source at Parliament also blamed Parliament for napping.

“It is Parliament that was supposed to aise the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission that a seat has fallen vacant, but it was an oversight on their part.

“It is the same situation with Senate president Edna Madzongwe whose seat as senator also fell vacant after her election to that position in line with Section 129 (1) (d) which says the seat of a Member of Parliament becomes vacant upon the member becoming president of the Senate or Speaker of a member of the other house,” said the source.

Former VP Mujuru was fired from Government, along with eight ministers, on December 9 for behaviour inconsistent with her official responsibilities in the discharge of her duties. This came in the wake of allegations of high level corruption, bribery, extortion, abuse of office, undermining the authority of, and seeking to depose or assassinate President Mugabe that she faced.

Similarly, Vice President Mnangagwa ceased to be National Assembly Member for Chirumanzu-Zibagwe Constituency last Friday when he – alongside VP Phelekezela Mphoko – took his oath of office before President Mugabe at State House in Harare.

Cde Mnangagwa’s National Assembly seat automatically became vacant by operation of the law when he assumed the Office of Vice President of Zimbabwe.

It is now up to Parliament to notify ZEC about the vacancy so that a by-election can be called.

Source : The Herald