HARARE - Legal experts yesterday savaged the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec), accusing it of duplicity and dishonesty while trashing the electoral body’s controversial decision to declare Zanu PF candidate Keith Guzah the winner of Hurungwe West by-election despite the fact that he was not a registered voter in the constituency.
In a statement that set tongues wagging yesterday, Zec boss Rita Makarau announced that “Keith Guzah was lawfully and procedurally nominated as a candidate for the Hurungwe West by-election. Experts savage
“He was subsequently validly elected as the member of the National Assembly for the constituency” — citing Zec’s failure to include the Zanu PF winning candidate on the voters’ roll as the reason why he had failed to vote on June 10.
Makarau’s statement was in apparent response to an expose by the Daily News last week that Guzah did not vote in the recently held by-elections for Hurungwe West as he was not a registered voter as required by the law.
Law experts said Makarau’s interpretation of the law was absurd, adding that Temba Mliswa, the independent candidate whose name was properly submitted at the nomination court, should now be the winning candidate by default.
Constitutional law expert and professor of law at the University of Zimbabwe Lovemore Madhuku accused Makarau of being dishonest by declaring that Guzah had been legally elected.
“Makarau is misinterpreting the law. I note her claim that there was an electronic or computer error that failed to put Guzah on the voters’ roll, but that’s beside the point because the law says that anyone aspiring to be an MP should appear on the voters’ roll on nomination.
“He was not on the voters’ roll and her explanation is therefore irrelevant and immaterial because he was supposed to be on the voters’ roll. An application remains an application and the law is clear on that.
“The only time it assumes a legal status is when the name appears on the voters’ roll. If Guzah wants to be voted in Hurungwe West he has to reapply.
“What this all means is that the election of Guzah is null and void, it’s invalid. He was not on the voters’ roll. The validly-elected person is Mliswa and he should be sworn in as the MP for Hurungwe West,” Madhuku said.
After a long meeting at the Zec headquarters yesterday, Makarau said in her statement, “on 23 March 2015, he (Guzah) lodged an application with the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission at its Head Office Voter Registration Centre, based at Quantum Mahachi Building, to transfer his registration as a voter from Magunje to Hurungwe West.
“The V3 Form setting out his application for transfer of registration as a voter bears Serial Number 010599A and is available for inspection to all interested parties. On the basis of the above transfer, Keith Guzah was duly nominated as a candidate for Hurungwe West on 08 April 2015 when the nomination court for that by-election sat.”
But Madhuku rubbished both the former Supreme Court judge’s choice of words and interpretation of the law.
“The truth of the matter is that Makarau is not being truthful and this can be seen in the choice of words that she decided to use. She simply chose to be dishonest and that dishonesty arises from the fact that someone like her, chairperson of an important body, communicates to Zimbabweans, educated and uneducated, in a language that uses transposition of block numbers.
“That attitude should be condemned in the strongest possible sense,” Madhuku said.
Supporting Madhuku’s position, Alex Magaisa — a professor of law at Kent University in United Kingdom — said Zec had shown double standards in the saga.
“This is a fire-fighting effort after Zec’s bungling, but this is not good enough. The fact of the matter is that Guzah is an MP in a constituency in which he is ineligible to vote.
“All persons who were turned away from voting on the day because their names were not on the voters’ roll cannot now return and say we should be allowed to vote simply because Zec bungled and did not place their names on the voters’ roll.
“That would throw the whole election into chaos. Yet one of them, the man who was being elected and could not vote because his name was not on the voters’ roll is still able to claim a victory.
“One law for the majority and another for one, it’s absurd. If I were one of those voters I would protest that I was treated differently and would demand my right to vote,” Magaisa said.
Amidst all this, the main opposition MDC led by former prime minister Morgan Tsvangirai has vowed not to take part in any elections until requisite electoral reforms are put in place.
The reforms demanded by the MDC include structural changes at Zec, which the opposition claim is infested with State security agents and Zanu PF sympathisers.
In her statement, Makarau cited technical issues such as that “Guzah’s name was not electronically updated on the voters’ roll for that constituency because of a transposition of the block numbers relating to his old and new registrations”.