By Robert Tapfumenyi
A TOTAL of 26 civic society organisations (CSOs) in Zimbabwe have condemned the blanket ban of by-elections by the Zimbabwe Elections Commission (ZEC) and the government.
In a joint statement Saturday, the CSO said citizens should be allowed to express themselves politically, without restraint or compulsion, from anyone or any political party.
Recently, Vice President Constantino Chiwenga who is also the Minister of Health gazetted an indefinite ban on the holding of all by-elections in the country. The order was also endorsed by ZEC.
“Political participation is one of the cornerstones of a constitutional democracy which facilitates discussion on politics, running for office and electing candidates of one’s choice into political positions in Parliament or the Presidium,” the CSOs joint statement said.
“As civic society organisations, we reiterate our 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.
“Therefore, the ban on by-elections effectively erodes the right to representative democracy for 35 parliamentary communities and 55 wards, unacceptably.
“We do not condone actions that seek to undercut constitutional principles on freedom of expression, good electoral processes that quarantine democracy by removing procedures that are critical components in the meaningful democratic participation of citizens in the election of Members of Parliament and councillors in local government.
“The same Constitution allows citizens to either support or challenge policies of government peacefully.”
The statement added; “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.
“Yet, Zimbabwe, whose Covid-19 case-load is not in any way unique on the African continent proceeds to ban by-elections indefinitely, which appears not to be driven by any COVID-19 science.
“We implore the Government of Zimbabwe, to create inclusive multi-stakeholder spaces, for ongoing dialogue and collaboration, which will lead to the holding of COVID-19 compliant by-elections, to enable citizens to peacefully exercise their constitutionally enshrined political rights,” the statement added.
“Government should desist from enacting statutory instruments that undermine the spirit and letter of the Constitution.”