MDC vice national chairperson Tendai Biti is set to keep his parliamentary seat after he was on Monday convicted for violating the Electoral Law. Biti is the MP for Harare East constituency on an MDC Alliance ticket.
Harare magistrate Gloria Takundwa ordered Biti to pay a $200 fine, or face week-long imprisonment should he fail to pay the fine. Biti was also slapped with a six-month jail term, which is suspended for five years, provided he does not commit a similar offence.
Zimbabwe’s Constitution stipulates 14 instances in which an MP’s seat can fall vacant. These range from the dissolution of Parliament, being appointed to the Vice Presidency, to conviction.
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In terms of Section 129 (1) (i)(i), a Member of Parliament’s seat becomes vacant if: the Member is convicted
(i) in Zimbabwe of an offence of which breach of trust, dishonesty or physical violence is an essential element; or
(ii) outside Zimbabwe of conduct which, if committed in Zimbabwe, would be an offence of which breach of trust, dishonesty or physical violence is an essential element; and sentenced to imprisonment for six months or more without the option of a fine or without the option of any other non-custodial punishment, unless on appeal the Member’s conviction is set aside or the sentence of imprisonment is reduced to less than six months or a punishment other than imprisonment is substituted.
A section which deals specifically with electoral laws is Section 129 (1) (n):
If the Member has been convicted of an offence under the Electoral Law and has been declared by the High Court to be disqualified for registration as a voter or from voting at any election.