US govt concerned by-elections playing field was uneven in Zimbabwe
The United States government has said that the playing field was not even when Zimbabwe held by-elections a few weeks ago amid allegations of intimidation and partisan distribution of food aid.
The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) conducted a by-election plebiscite on the 26th of March 2022 for 28 vacant seats in the National Assembly and more than 120 council seats.
The Nelson Chamisa led party Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) made its debut in Zimbabwean politics with a huge victory, winning 19 seats in Parliament compared to Zanu-PF’s 9 seats. In areas where the opposition lost, allegations of rigging and intimidation were raised.
The US condemned intimidation orchestrated by Zanu-PF against the CCC. This comes after one of the CCC members, Mboneni Ncube was killed by a spear by suspected Zanu-PF members in Kwekwe during Chamisa’s rally
“We commend all the volunteers, observers, party agents, polling agents, police officers, and voters who made the March 26 by-elections happen and took their time to invest in Zimbabwe’s democracy. #ZimVotesMatter,” the US Embassy in Harare said.
“We appreciated the opportunity to observe by-elections, but remain very concerned about harsh rhetoric, intimidation, and violent assaults in the lead-up to election day.
“Voters have the right to participate in political processes free from fear and violence. #VotesWithoutViolence.”
The US further stated that its economic embargoes against Zimbabwe, the Zimbabwe Democracy and Economic Recovery Acts (ZIDERA), were meant to foster democracy in Zimbabwe.
“ZIDERA requires Zimbabwe to hold an election ‘widely accepted as free and fair by independent international monitors,’ and to sufficiently improve the pre-election environment to be consistent with international standards.
“To achieve this… We urge ZEC to publicly release an auditable electronic voters’ roll far in advance of 2023 elections so citizens can help to strengthen the credibility of the voters’ roll and reduce the numbers of potential voters turned away from polling stations #FairPlay
“To achieve this… Zimbabwe’s government must commit to a level playing field, apply laws to all candidates and parties, and guarantee public media gives nationwide, equal, non-partisan airtime for all candidates during the election period. #FairPlay
“To achieve this… Partisan distribution of humanitarian assistance, food, agricultural inputs, and other public services in exchange for votes must end. #ZvisinaTsvete #FairPlay
“As Zimbabwe moves toward 2023 general elections, we urge the government to integrate lessons learned from civil society to set the stage for peaceful and credible national elections that are fully consistent with international standards.”
These issues are raised at a time when the country is preparing for the 2023 harmonised general elections. Chamisa is likely to face President Emmerson Mnangagwa in the presidential race. Nehanda Radio