EDITOR – I have had time to look at the new constitution, and I am convinced that the MDC-T is still eligible to pick a candidate for mayor for Bulawayo and Harare outside the elected councillors, because in the first place, the electorate must have been allowed to directly elect these officers.
My conclusion is based on the following observations:
1. Section 272(1) states that “At the first sitting after every general election, a provincial council must elect a chairperson from a list of at least two qualified persons submitted by the political party which (a) gained the highest number of seats in the province concerned, or, if there is no political party such as is referred to in paragraph (a), the political party which received the highest number of votes cast in the province in that general election for members of parliament.”
2. Section 272 (2) says “A person is qualified for election as the chairperson of a provincial council if he or she is qualified for election as a member of the Senate.”
3. Section 121 (1) says “A person is qualified for election as a senator if he or she (a) is a registered voter, or (b) is at least 40 years of age.”
4. Section 274 (2) says “Urban council authorities are managed by councils composed of councillors elected in the urban areas concerned and presided over by elected Mayors or Chairpersons, by whatever name called.”
5. Section 274 (5) says “An Act of Parliament may confer Executive Powers on the Mayor of Chairperson of an Urban Local Authority; but any Mayor or Chairperson on whom such powers are conferred must be elected directly by registered voters in the area for which the local authority has been established.”
Directly here may imply that this person must have been elected by the general public, and that means either councillors or members of parliament can be elected as mayors or provincial chairpersons, giving room for the MDC to suggest a provincial chairperson from either elected councillors or parliamentarians from the respective province. This section also does not specify who the registered voters are who should elect the mayor or provincial chairperson. Registered voters can be the general public, but councillors are also registered voters.
It makes sense if the elected councillors, who are also registered voters in their respective wards, are allowed to represent their wards in electing the mayor or chairperson of the urban authority, as long as the candidate being elected meets the criteria given in Section 121 (1), which does not say that a person must have been elected as a councillor in order to qualify as a mayoral or provincial council chairperson.
Minister Chombo must swallow his pride, withdraw his directive regarding the election of mayors, and ensure that the constitution is appropriately amended in time for the next elections. I conclude that the MDC has a constitutional right to choose mayors for all the urban authorities they are entitled to from outside the elected councillors, and they can also choose elected MPs to be mayors or provincial chairpersons.