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Govt continues to ban by-elections, allows Zanu-PF internal elections

By Staff Reporter | Nehanda Politics |

President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s under-fire administration continues to ban by-elections while allowing the ruling Zanu PF party to hold internal elections, the Zimbabwe Election Support Network (ZESN) has noted.

Vice President, Rtd General Constantino Chiwenga and President Emmerson Mnangagwa
Vice President, Rtd General Constantino Chiwenga and President Emmerson Mnangagwa

Vice President Constantino Chiwenga who doubles as health minister last year issued a Statutory Instrument 225 of 2020 and suspended by-elections “for the duration of the period of declaration of Covid-19 as a formidable epidemic disease”.

The suspension, however, did not stop the ruling party’s own internal electoral processes, fuelling confusion over the VP’s intervention that has been described as illegal by lawyers, civil society and the international community.

ZESN in its latest report on Monitoring Government Responses to the Covid-19 Pandemic issued on Tuesday urged the government to lift the ban and allow the unrepresented electorate to enjoy democracy.

“Government should consider lifting the Statutory Instrument indefinitely suspending by-elections to uphold democracy and make sure there is adequate representation of the electorate,” read the ZESN report.

“SI 225 of 2020 indefinitely suspending by-elections in vacant wards and constituencies on account of Covid-19, is yet to be lifted. However, within political parties, most notably the ruling party, preparations for by-elections are ongoing, including the holding of internal elections.”

ZESN also noted that the next election might be under Covid-19 hence there is need to adopt and allow the holding of by-elections. The election watchdog said elections were held in the region by Zambia and Malawi under the pandemic and Zimbabwe should do the same.

“Given the possibility of the next harmonised elections being held amid Covid-19, the government may need to consider the holding of elections during the pandemic, starting with the by-elections, with Covid-19 prevention measures enforced throughout the electoral processes,” ZESN stated.

“This is particularly so in view of the fact that, not only has the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) developed a policy on how to conduct elections amid Covid-19, but other sectors such as education have opened up, with resumption of activity in schools and institutions of higher learning.”

The Zanu PF government has since been accused of banning by-elections to make sure MDC Alliance MPs, senators and councilors who were recalled by the smaller MDC-T and its leaders Douglas Mwonzora and Thokozani Khupe could not retain seats.

Meanwhile, more than 40 parliamentary seats and 80 council seats are still vacant after the recalls last year. Mwonzora’s party has since filled more than 15 proportional representation seats in the Senate and the National Assembly.

Section 158(2) of the Constitution provides that a by-election should be held within 90 days of the occurrence of a vacancy, whether in Parliament or in a local authority. Nehanda Radio