Zimbabwe Parliament Vacant Seats Rises

According to Veritas Bill Watch both Zanu (PF) and MDC-T have the same voting party strengths of 96 members of parliament each while MDC led by Arthur Mutambara has seven. Zanu (PF) has the largest voting count in the Senate with 56 members followed by MDC-T with 27 and MDC-M eight.

This situation has been brought about by the failure of the inclusive governement to hold by-elections to fill the vacant seats in breach of the Constitution and the Electoral Act.

Bill Watch said the excuse of first having to update the voters rolls, which was being advanced by the inclusive government, was not a valid one as the law currently limited voting at a by-election to those on the roll when the vacancy occurred, and some of these vacancies arose in 2008.

There are a further four vacancies in non-constituency seats:  one chief’s seat, still to be filled by the Matabeleland South Assembly of Chiefs; two Zanu (PF) appointed seats in the Senate; and one Zanu (PF) appointed seat in the House of Assembly.

At the beginning of the just-ended second session of the Seventh parliament of Zimbabwe, four MDC-T members of the House of Assembly were under suspension in terms of section 42 of the Constitution, having been convicted of various offences and sentenced to more than six months imprisonment.  During the session one of them had his conviction overturned on appeal and was automatically reinstated.  

The other three remained suspended pending the determination of their appeals against conviction and sentence.  They continue to hold their seats, but while suspended cannot vote or participate in Parliamentary business and receive no remuneration.  If they win their appeals, they will be reinstated. If their appeals are unsuccessful, their seats will fall vacant.  Meanwhile, MDC-T voting strength in the House is reduced, by three.

The current party voting strengths as from the last session, which take into account vacancies and suspensions are: House of Assembly: MDC-T 96, Zanu (PF) 96 and MDC-M 7

In the Senate, MDC-T has 27 members, Zanu (PF) 56 and MDC-M 8.  Zanu (PF) is made up of 25 elected members, four appointed, 10 provincial governors and 17 chiefs.

Veritas Bill Watch also said police action against MDC-T legislators, arrests and or prosecution of MDC-T parliamentarians continued.

MDC-T continued to complain that its legislators were being specially singled out by police.  Charges of insulting the President featured in several such cases.  No convictions have yet ensued.  

The then MDC-T Deputy Minister of Youth, Thamsanqa Mahlangu, was arrested, spent time in custody and after weeks of court hearings was acquitted of theft of a cellphone.  MDC-T Deputy Minister-designate of Agriculture, Roy Bennett, spent weeks in remand prison and then at the end of a protracted trial was acquitted of terrorism and banditry charges, whereupon the Attorney-General applied for leave to appeal.  The Chief Justice heard legal argument on the application on July 28 and then said his decision would be handed down later, but warned that this would not be soon, given the lengthy trial record.