January 20, 2022

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By-Elections Mandatory, Constitutional But Not Useful

By Shingirai Vambe

The delay in holding by elections and the eventual proclamation of dates by the president at the 11th hour of the current tenure of Parliament has brought tension and put an undesirable stain on the country’s democratic status.

Independent election based groups and other stakeholders who include opposition parties have registered their concern over the delays by the president to announce the date for elections while the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) has for the second time since 2018 tested the patience of citizens by announcing false figures of prospective voters who registered to vote in 2021.

The announcement by ZEC has left political parties and various stakeholders wondering if the commission is operating independently to fulfill its mandate.

Earlier the ZEC spokesperson told this publication that they had challenges with finances in conducting voter Education exercise while in some cases they have failed to respond.

The Election Resource Centre has however poured sulfur on the current situation and the announcement of the by-elections as not useful
“Because Elections are mandatory, within 90 days after a vacant arises, an election must be proclaimed. If that election falls within a period of 3-6 months before the general election, that election will not be useful” Solomon Bobosibunu Musaka said.

“Reason ERC is approaching the courts for litigation is because there is violation of the law, yes it’s constitutional and mandatory but not useful” he added.
The suspension of by-election should be challenged, it is constitutional to do that, we have to do that and those constituencies and wards which are vacant were supposed to be filled in within a stipulated time.

“The call for the elections is very important for administrative components that different institutions and stakeholders are actually asking for, this could be electoral reforms, voters’ roll, and access to the media, voter education and registration of voters (Biometric Voter Registration)” said Musaka.

The Zimbabwe Election Support Network (ZESN) told Post on Sunday that it was worried about the legal provisions to the timing of the closing of voters’ roll ahead of election.

“It is understandable that the voters’ roll has to be closed early enough to ensure ample time for inspection so that candidates can be nominated by registered voters” ZESN said.
The poll watch dog has however raised concern over the ZEC’s position on 2021 registrants.

The election body calls upon government and ZEC to consider a special voter registration exercise to allow voters’ in wards and constituencies where by-elections are due to be held.

ZEC’s first and second registration statistics of 2021 registered voters raised dust after independent bodies started to share numbers of people they assisted to register to vote and their total figure was 9 971 against the 2 971 announced by ZEC.

The Zimbabwe Socio-Economic Democrats (ZSD) president Nkosikhona Ndlovu has called on political parties to boycott the by-elections citing the cost and planning process by ZEC depriving thousands of prospective first-time voters the opportunity to exercise their constitutional right.

“Clearly our youths have been disenfranchised in exercising their democratic right to participate in the by-elections as enshrined in our Zimbabwe Constitution which states in Ch. 7 that the state must ensure that all eligible citizens, that is to say the citizens qualified under the fourth schedule, are registered to vote” said Ndlovu.

ZSD also cited gross abuse of power by the executive and selective application of the law, that other parties could not freely run their political activities while Zanu PF continued with its programs ignoring the lockdown regulations which had suspended the by-elections.

“As ZSD we are puzzled in that there is no mention by ZEC on the diaspora vote which is provided for in the constitution yet they are claiming to ready to run the 2023 general elections.

“That said we are calling for all political parties to boycott this costly $1.5 billion 26th of March by-election and together push for electoral reforms, Amendment, of the Electoral Act as per our constitution and demilitarization of ZEC and further demand for reintroduction of mobile voter registration blitz to ensure citizens have access to register to vote” added Ndlovu.

Adding to that a cross section of people with disabilities have reached out calling for partial and fair treatment in the process as they feel they have been left out in the registration process.

Few individuals in Manicaland told Post On Sunday that ZEC facilities or offices across the country do not permit them in their condition to be able to register to vote and asking for mobile team to move around the country identifying people with disabilities so that they also get the opportunity to exercise their democratic right.