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Electoral Bill, bad news for CCC

New Parliament Building

A NUMBER of sitting opposition Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) councillors and MPs may be barred from contesting the upcoming elections if the Electoral Act Amendment Bill is signed into law.

The heavily criticised law was gazetted last year and seeks to, among other things, disqualify aspiring candidates with criminal records.

At the moment, it is in the Second Reading Stage.

After the Second Reading Stage, it goes to the Committee Reading Stage and then Third Reading Stage.

If it sails through and is signed by the President before polls, it will be implemented during this year’s elections likely to be held between July 26 and August 26.

Among a litany of changes, the Bill seeks disqualification of previously convicted persons from contesting in national elections.

Legislators or councillors will be disqualified if they commit physical violence or dishonesty crimes and get convicted within a period of 12 months before the date of nomination as a candidate.

Several CCC sitting legislators and councillors, including other aspiring candidates, are facing various criminal offences and may be barred from contesting if the Bill is signed into law.

If a candidate has a criminal conviction, they will only be allowed to contest if their sentence has been reduced to less than six months, pardoned or if their conviction is set aside.

Some of the CCC’s sitting Harare councillors with pending cases include Herbert Gomba, Denford Ngadziore, Kudzai Kadzombe, Stanley Manyenga and Godfrey Kurauone.

Kurauone has since skipped the country’s borders.

Sitting CCC Members of Parliament with pending cases include vice-president Tendai Biti, acting national organiser Amos Chibaya, acting deputy chairperson Job Sikhala, Joanah Mamombe, Godfrey Sithole, Costa Machingauta and David Chimhini.

Also, vice-president Lynette Karenyi-Kore and aspiring legislator Vimbai Tome have pending cases.

CCC spokesperson Fadzayi Mahere was convicted last week by a Harare magistrate and fined US$500 or three months in jail for publishing falsehoods prejudicial to the State.

Sikhala is now left with two months to clock a year behind bars on charges of inciting public violence and obstructing the course of justice.

Lawyer Chris Mhike said the proposed law was unjust.

“The proposition to bar the potential candidates stipulated in the Bill is, obviously, grossly unfair and inimical to fair contestation in a genuine democratic system,” Mhike said.

“That unfairness is especially detectable in present-day Zimbabwe, wherein lawfare is intensely pervasive. It is our hope that the limitations suggested in the Bill never see the light of day, specifically under the current socio-political and legislative framework.”

The CCC has said the proposed law is calculated to block jailed Sikhala and others from participating in the general elections set for this year.

“This amendment is calculated to ensure our members who are facing targeted prosecutions and are victims of clear weaponisation of the law to silence the opposition do not stand as candidates,” CCC said in a statement.

“This implied disqualification clause for parliamentary candidates violates and is ultra vires the Constitution.

“The Constitution sets out the only competent grounds for disqualification of members of parliament in sections 121, 125 and 129. Crucially, there is no mention of disqualification due to prior conviction before tenure of office.”

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