Ban of by-elections a unique limitation on electoral activities – CSO’s

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Myles Matarise

STAFF WRITER

matarisem@dailynews.co.zw

 

Civic Society Organisations (CSOs) across the country have raised concern over the suspension of by-elections which were due later this year.

This comes after the indefinite suspension of by-elections by the Minister of Health and Child Care who is also the Vice President, Constantino Chiwenga.

 

“We, the undersigned Civic Society Organizations, working on democracy and human rights, guided by the Constitution that allows all citizens to participate freely in politics, express our concern over the recent developments in Zimbabwe that pose a threat to such participation.

“Of note, is the recent suspension of by-elections through Statutory Instrument 225A of 2020. This constitutes a blanket ban on by-elections in Zimbabwe.

“We demand that, by-elections in Zimbabwe be guided by the Constitution and call for the upholding of the Rule of law,” read the joint statement issued by the CSO’s.

According to Zimbabwe Election Support Network (ZESN), the move taken as a health emergency COVID-19 response undercuts constitutional principles on freedom of expression, good electoral practice and curtails the independence of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) and Parliamentary oversight.

 

ZESN is of the view that, while the special policy has been enacted in response to containing the pandemic, ZESN reiterates its concerns on the seemingly quarantining of democracy as it is not clear when the restrictions will be lifted and more so given that no one knows how long the pandemic will last.

 

The suspension of by-elections, by the Ministry of Health and Child Care, come after the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission had undertaken a consultative process to develop COVID-19 Guidelines for the conduct of by- elections in the country.

CSO’s highlighted that the Ministry of Health and Child Care, provided guidance on the resumption of a wide-array of socio-economic processes and activities, including but not limited to; the reopening of land and air borders, the resumption of the education sector, the expansion of food markets, and the extension of retailers and industry operating hours.

CSO’s believe that the blanket ban of by-elections accordingly appears to be unique limitation on electoral activities.

“Citizens should be allowed to express themselves politically, without restraint or compulsion, from anyone or any political party.

“Political participation is one of the cornerstones of a constitutional democracy and which facilitates discussion on politics, running for office and electing candidates of one’s choice into political positions in Parliament or the Presidium.

“It means to do so freely according to one’s preference,” read the statement.

The CSO’s reiterated their position, that the electoral process must remain guided by the Constitution and adhere to all full tenets of democracy enshrined in it that include, the right to vote for a candidate of their choice into Parliament and Local Government.

ZESN also recommends more dialogue between ZEC and electoral stakeholders on alternative methods of conducting elections that will ensure the health and safety for all involved.

 

“We believe, that the suspension of by-elections should have been a result of transparent multi-stakeholder consultations inclusive of voices from citizens, parliament, political parties, the academia, civil society, the private sector, trade unions, youths and Persons with Disabilities to ensure the fostering of trust in electoral processes so as not to further curtail the upholding of democracy in Zimbabwe.

“In the context of the pandemic, multitudes of African countries conducting or intending to conduct COVID-19 compliant presidential elections, particularly, within the region, Malawi, Zambia, South Africa and further Guinea, Cameroon, Mali, Benin, Burundi and Ghana that conducted Biometric Registration of 15 million voters in May,” read the joint statement by the CSO’s.

 

The full list of CSO’s that issued that statement.

 

Election Resource Centre (ERC), Women’s Coalition of Zimbabwe (WcOZ), Female Prisoners Support Trust (FEMPRIST), Girls and Women Empowerment Network (GWEN), Habakkuk Trust, Imba Mukadzi Umuzi Ngumama Trust (IMUNT), Marondera Residents Open Forum (MAROF), Media Alliance of Zimbabwe (MAZ), National Association of Youth Organizations (NAYO), Wedza Residents Development Initiative Trust (WERDIT), Women and Law in Southern Africa (WILSA), Women in Politics Support Unit (WiPSU), Women’s Academy for Leadership and Political Excellence (WALPE), Women’s Coalition in Zimbabwe, Women’s Institute for Leadership Development (WILD), Youth Empowerment and Transformation Trust (YETT), Zimbabwe Civil Education Trust (ZIMCET), Zimbabwe Council of Churches (ZCC), Zimbabwe Election Support Network (ZESN), Zimbabwe Empowerment for Development (ZIMED), Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum, Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR), Zimbabwe Peace Project (ZPP), Zimbabwe Women Lawyers Association (ZWLA)

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