‘Lift Ban On By-Elections,’ Youth Groups tell ZEC
Zimbabwe youth groups have called on the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) to lift a unilateral ban imposed on by – elections stating that constitutional rights are being violated by this move.
A coalition of youth groups such as Youth Forum of Zimbabwe, Zimbabwe National Students Union and Youth Alliance for Democracy, came together to issue a statement on what they call a suppression of democratic rights by ZEC. ‘We appreciate and acknowledge the importance of health and safety for all participants in the electoral process and the need for restrictions to prevent the spread of COVID – 19, but the urgency of the health response should not be used as a pretext to unreasonably limit and suppress other democratic rights and fundamental freedoms of Zimbabweans. ZEC must draw lessons on how other countries in Southern Africa and the continent such as South Africa, Malawi, Uganda and Nigeria have conducted and administered local authority elections. By – elections and general elections during the COVID – 19 pandemic,’ reads part of the press statement issued in Harare on Wednesday 21st April.
The youths have added that ZEC must immediately lift ban on elections and engage all stakeholders including political parties, candidates and civil society so as to achieve political and administrative consensus on how to deliver free and fair elections within the context of COVID – 19.
This comes after ZEC released a statement in March 2021 announcing resumption of some electoral activities following relaxation of COVID – 19 measures of Statutory Instrument 10 of 2021 but did not lift the ban on by – elections.
‘In view of danger still posed by the COVID – 19 pandemic and the need to uphold some health provisions which are still in force, the conduct of by-elections remains suspended,’ ZEC Chief Elections Officer Utloile Silaigwana announced at the time when COVID-19 measures were relaxed
The country has dozens of by-elections that are due owing mostly to recalling of local councillors and legislators by MDC – T led by Douglas Mwonzora and death of several others. These recalls have severely affected local authorities such as Harare where more than twenty councillors have been recalled resulting in poor representation and service delivery.
Irked by these recalls, Harare Residents’ Trust (HRT) says the recalls highlight the greater need for a more inclusive law making to enhance citizen participation in playing their oversight role in local authorities. The Constitution has no provision that empowers the citizens as ratepayers to recall any elected councillors on allegations of incompetence, abuse of office, incompetence and corruption. This responsibility is left to the political parties’ leadership to write to the respective accounting officers indicating that this or that Councillor has been expelled or no longer represents their political party interests in the local authority. They do this without consulting the electorate who voted for the candidates, which limits the practice of good democratic and accountable governance. It is argued that the recalls expose the inadequacies of existing laws to safeguard the interests of ratepayers and counter the overbearing influence of political parties in the choice and oversight over Councillors.