By Nyashadzashe Ndoro
The Zimbabwe Election Support Network (ZESN) has accused the Zimbabwe Election Commission (ZEC) of double standards by unconstitutionally suspending elections citing the COVID-19 lockdown while citizens still queue daily for basic commodities and public transport.
In a statement ZESN said the suspension of electoral activities was not done in terms of the law. Sections 158 (3) and 121 (a) of the Constitution provides that ZEC should conduct by-elections to fill vacancies in Parliament and local authorities, fix the polling dates for local authority by-elections within 90 days after the vacancies occur.
Section 132 allows ZEC to change dates but does not mandate ZEC to change without giving notice of its decision in the Gazette and in the media and beyond 90 days.
“Zimbabweans queue on a daily basis for basic commodities, cash outs at banks and money agents, social welfare and food aid from different organisations whilst observing safety measures,” read the statement.
Instead of suspending elections, ZESN said ZEC could have done public consultations with key stakeholders and come up with a better decision.
“Whilst acknowledging the risk that the novel coronavirus exposes those involved in elections to, ZESN reiterates its position that ZEC could have reached a decision after engaging key stakeholders such as political parties, CSOs, and even citizens.
“Engagement with regards to whether or not to suspend electoral activities could have been done through virtual or any other means adhering to measures aimed at preventing the spread of COVID-19. In the absence of these consultations, ZEC could at least have considered postponing, rather than suspending electoral activities.
“But even postponement cannot be indefinite. ZESN is the position that ZEC could proceed with by-elections and other electoral activities, ensuring COVID-19 preventative measures are in place for voters, polling officials, political party agents as well as observers.
“This is particularly so because the COVID-19 pandemic may be here to stay, no one knows for how long if it is for months or years,” further read the statement.
Meanwhile, the main opposition MDC Alliance deputy secretary for Local Governance, Jacob Mafume on Monday accused Zanu PF of trying to use the national lockdown as a launch pad to bar elections but allowing people to gather everyday for basic commodities. Nehanda Radio