ELECTION WATCH 14/2023
[1st June 2023]
Proclamation of General Election : Some Consequences
As we announced in Election Watch 13/2023, the President published Proclamation 4/2023 yesterday, fixing dates for the harmonised general election due to be held later this year. The proclamation can be accessed on the Veritas website [link].
In this bulletin we will give more details about what the proclamation does and will outline some of its consequences.
Election Dates and Places
Wednesday 21st June 2023 will be the nomination day for all elections except the elections of chiefs.
The places where nomination courts will sit on nomination day are listed in the proclamation:
- For the presidential election, the nomination court will sit in the High Court building (Mapondera Building), Samora Machel Avenue, Harare.
- For parliamentary elections [both constituency and party-list members of the National Assembly and Senators], nomination courts will sit in the magistrates court building in each province.
- For local authority elections, nomination courts will sit at the council offices listed in the proclamation.
Wednesday 23rd August 2023 will be polling day for all elections except the elections of chiefs.
If a run-off election is necessary in the presidential election [i.e. if no candidate has received more than half the votes cast on the 23rd August] it will be held on Monday 2nd October 2023.
The places where polling stations are situated will be announced in due course by the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission [ZEC] in terms of section 51(3) of the Electoral Act.
Elections of Chiefs
Thursday 3rd August 2023: Provincial Assemblies of Chiefs will meet to elect members of the Council of Chiefs. The places where they will meet are listed in the proclamation.
Thursday 10th August: The Council of Chiefs will meet at Mukwati Building, Harare, to elect the President and Deputy President of the Council, who will be ex officio Senators.
Thursday 24th August: Provincial assemblies of chiefs will meet to elect Senator Chiefs. The places where they will meet are listed in the proclamation.
Other important dates
Closing of voters rolls: Only those voters who are registered on a voters roll by the 2nd June will be allowed to vote in the election. Anyone who becomes registered after that date will not be able to vote. See section 26A of the Electoral Act.
Designation of party office-bearers: Political parties contesting the elections will have between the 4th June and the 19th June to submit the names of their designated national and provincial office-bearers to ZEC in terms of section 38A of the Electoral Act.
Accreditation of election observers: Applications for accreditation of election observers must be made before the 19th August in terms of section 40I of the Electoral Act.
Some Consequences of the Proclamation
Parliament is not dissolved
By virtue of section 143(1) of the Constitution, Parliament will be dissolved immediately before polling day, i.e. at midnight on the 22nd August. Until then it can continue sitting and conducting its business, but it may not do so in fact – members of all parties will want to campaign and canvass for votes for the election.
Closure of voters rolls
During the recent voters roll inspection exercise, which is due to end today, many voters – including prominent politicians – found their names had been left off the rolls. The Chief Elections Officer is reported as saying that errors such as these would be corrected. But once voters rolls have closed tomorrow, can the errors be corrected? The law is not clear on the point.
Electoral Amendment Bill
This Bill has not yet been passed by Parliament – it is currently undergoing its Committee Stage in the National Assembly – so it cannot be used for the purpose of the General Election. This is because section 157(5) of the Constitution provides:
“After an election has been called, no change to the Electoral Law or to any other law relating to elections has effect for the purposes of that election.”
Hence even if Parliament were to proceed with the Bill and pass it – which is most unlikely – the election would have to be conducted as if the Bill had never been passed.
This has several awkward consequences, as we shall explain below.
1. Women and youths cannot be elected.
Under section 124 of the Constitution, as amended in 2021:
There must be an additional 10 youth members of the National Assembly, one from each province [section 124(1)]
Of the 60 women members of the National Assembly elected on a party-list system, 10 must be youths and some must be persons living with disabilities [section 124(1)]
Provincial and metropolitan councils must each have 10 members elected on a party-list system of proportional representation [section 268]
All these people must be elected in accordance with the Electoral Law.
The Electoral Act does not provide for the election of any of these people. The Electoral Amendment Bill would have done so but it cannot be used for the election and nor can any other law that may be enacted between now and polling day.
So how can these people be constitutionally elected? The simple answer is that they can’t, but if they are not elected then the National Assembly and all provincial and metropolitan councils will not be properly constituted.
2. Electoral reforms cannot be made
Over the years there have been many calls for electoral reform. Observers of the 2018 election made far-reaching recommendations which we summarised in our Election Watches 43/2018 [link], 44/2018 [link], 45/2018 [link], 46/2018 [link] and 47/2018 [link]. The Motlanthe Commission, which was set up to look into post-election violence in 2018, also made recommendations for reform [link].
None of the recommended reforms has been implemented. Now that the election proclamation has been published none of them can be implemented, so the 2023 elections will have to be conducted without them.
This will have serious consequences not just for the credibility of the elections and for our political stability, but also for our economic development and international relations. At the recent Structured Dialogue Platform meeting on the country’s debt, the facilitators – the President of the African Development Bank, Dr Akinwumi Adesina, and the former Mozambique President, Mr Joaquim Chissano – are reported to have said that governance and electoral reforms were needed for creditors to agree on a scheme for debt relief. Electoral reforms leading to free, fair and credible elections are a condition the country must meet if it is to rejoin the Commonwealth.
We do not know what considerations prompted the President to publish the proclamation yesterday. Whatever they were, reforms have been put on the back burner.