By Leopold Munhende
SEVENTEEN local women-based groups have united to call on government to lift its controversial ban on by-elections.
The ban has been in place ostensibly as part of government’s measures to prevent the spread of Covid-19 during its peak in the country.
Some 26 parliamentary and 80 ward seats have been rendered vacant mainly due to expulsions on MDC Alliance MPs by the rival MDC-T which was declared the legitimate faction of the feuding opposition.
Said the organisations in a statement, “The undersigned women’s rights organisations, working on promoting democracy, good governance and the full participation of women, women with disabilities and young women in electoral processes, are deeply concerned with the indefinite suspension of by-elections in Zimbabwe.
“Due to the recent recalls from parliament and local councils and deaths of representatives in 2020-2021, 26 constituencies and around 80 wards are unrepresented, an affront to the democratic principles of representative democracy as enshrined in the Zimbabwean Constitution.
“The continued ban on by-elections is an assault on the legislative authority of the people of Zimbabwe who cannot elect their representatives into parliament.”
The by-elections were suspended alongside all forms of political gatherings in the country.
The 17 women’s groups feel this was against Section 159 of the national constitution.
“The limitations placed by this ban on the rights and freedoms enshrined in the constitution, e.g the right to political participation, are unfair, unreasonable and unjustifiable in a democratic society,” said the groups.
“Section 159 of the constitution explicitly requires that by-elections be held within 90 days after the vacancy occurs, no subsidiary legislation can overturn this explicit constitutional provision that is binding on everyone including both the executive and the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC.
“The President and Cabinet, in-particular the Minister of Health must respect the constitution, regional and international instruments that promote democracy and good governance and to do everything in their power to ensure all the outstanding by-elections are held in a safe, peaceful and transparent manner.”
The groups that combined to issue the statement are Economic Justice for Women project (EJWP), Women of Africa (WOA), Female Student Network Trust), Institute for Young Women’s Development (IYWD), Women in Politics Support Unit (WIPSU), Action for Women in Development and Enterprise (Act4Women).
They also include Deaf Zimbabwe Trust (DZT), Women’s Academy for Leadership and Political Excellence (WALPE), Self Help Development Foundation (SHDF), Women’s Institute for Leadership Development (WILD), Girls and Women Empowerment Network Trust (GWEN).
Also involved are The Girls’ Table, Female Prisoners Support Trust (FEMPRIST). Women and Law in Southern Africa (WLSA), Sprout Women Empowerment Trust (SWET), Women Trust Africa (WTA) and Imba Mukadzi/Umuzi Ngumama Trust (IMUNT).