Electoral Amendment Act is a flawed legislative piece

HARARE - President Emmerson Mnangagwa has signed into law a flawed Electoral Amendment Act that is still unaligned to the Constitution unanimously approved by 95 percent of Zimbabweans in a referendum held in March 2013.

The flawed Electoral Act was enacted on May 28 in a Government Gazette and came into operation on that very date. It is Act No. 6 of 2018 and is one of the most regrettable pieces of legislation on our statute books.

It could have been amended to be congruent with the wishes of the majority had brinkmanship and abuse of Zanu PF’s two-thirds majority not won.

There was fierce debate as this Bill was being steered through the legislature, with MDC backbenchers shouting themselves hoarse that the right thing must be done. But alas, the Bill was rammed through Parliament in its flawed state, warts and all.

This is most regrettable because the Act cannot be amended again for the purpose of the forthcoming general election set for July 30.

It is strange that Mnangagwa, who is repeating ad nauseum ad infinitum that he wants a free and free election, can deliberately allow the poll to be run under a flawed legal dispensation. This opens up the election to all sorts of problems given the lacuna in the law.

As it is, no one has set their eyes on the new Electoral Act. An important requirement of the rule of law — a foundational principle of the Constitution — is that laws must be accessible, because, if people cannot find out what the laws are, they will not be able to obey them or know their rights under them.

The Act should have been amended months ago and published in its amended form well before the election.

Besides, it will take ages to unpack the full import of the new Electoral Act simply because it is comprehensible.  It is five years since the last election, and Parliament had ample time to produce a new simplified Act.

However, the deficiencies in the Act do not mean the elections will inevitably be unfree and unfair.  A good Electoral Act does not guarantee good elections just as a bad one does not guarantee flawed elections.

Much depends on the people who conduct and contest the elections, the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec)’s boss Priscilla Chigumba, her commissioners and staff, election observers, candidates, political parties and their supporters.

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