ZESN Calls For By-Election Ban Lifting, Stop To Lockdown Bias

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By Staff Reporter

THE Zimbabwe Electoral Support Network (ZESN) has called on government to lift the ban on the holding of by-elections and to abandon alleged biases against rivals during the enforcement of the national lockdown.

Government has since been relaxing lockdown regulations with a recent stance allowing businesses to resume operations.

However, by-elections and electoral processes such as voter registration remain suspended.

This is despite political parties conducting activities in some constituencies, at times, in violation of Covid-19 regulations.

The poll watchdog said in a report focussing on government’s implementation of the lockdown that electoral processes could still go ahead during the current lockdown period.

“While ZESN appreciates the need to take reasonable precautions to safeguard the health of citizens, it is of the position that the Covid-19 pandemic presents opportunities to conduct electoral processes differently, such as conducting some of the electoral processes online.”

Added the group, “Even if processes such as voting continue to be conducted in person, there are is sufficient evidence from both the African continent and beyond that demonstrates that in-person elections can be safely conducted.

“Hence ZESN recommends that, whenever the lockdown regulations are relaxed, the government should also consider lifting the indefinite suspension of National Assembly and local authorities’ by-elections.”

A lot of parliamentary and council seats lie vacant following unprecedented recalls on dozens of MDC Alliance MPs by the rival MDC-T which was granted rights to the main opposition when the party’s leadership wrangle spilled onto the courts.

“In a series of snap surveys2 that were conducted by ZESN last year, citizens decried on the need for representation at parliamentary and local level.

ZESN also called on government to be fair in implementing the lockdown.

This follows several rallies conducted by some Zanu PF loyalists without any arrests by police who are often quick to react when the opposition attempts to conduct similar gatherings.

The ruling party, Zanu PF, reportedly held meetings at the local party’s office in Rimuka in Kadoma Central during the second and third weeks of February 2021.

Meetings were also reportedly held at the residence of the Zanu PF’s District Secretary in the first week of February in Glen View North.

On 19 February, members of the new Zanu PF District Coordinating Committee (DCC) met for orientation and on 21 February, Zanu PF supporters gathered at the district offices for the introduction of the new DCC and membership cards registration.

Covid-19 regulations were not adhered to at the gathering.

The MP for Bindura North, Kenneth Musanhi reportedly held a rally during the first week of February, at his farm where Covid-19 regulations were reportedly not adhered to.

There are several more.

Said ZESN, “Government should ensure that there is no selective application of Covid-19 regulations and that those who contravene the regulations should be investigated and be brought to book without fear or favour.

“Political parties should observe stipulated health protocols for any in-person meetings or campaign activities they conduct during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The Government should consider lifting the indefinite suspension of by-elections and ensure the by-elections are held in a manner that is in keeping with Health protocols established by both the World Health Organisations and the Ministry of Health and Child Health Care.”