Women’s Academy for Leadership and Political Excellence (WALPE) and Election Resource Centre (ERC) through the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) on 13 October 2020, approached the High Court of Zimbabwe seeking an order to compel the President of Zimbabwe and Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) to set dates for by-elections to comply with the constitution and electoral act.
The court case follows the suspension of by-elections by the Ministry of Health and Child Care citing COVID19 yet the ZEC had developed a Covid-19 policy on electoral activities with clear guidelines on how by elections and other electoral processes would be conducted without exposing those involved to health risks. The indefinite suspension is notwithstanding that cases of COVID19 in the country have been on a decrease and the country has slowly returned to normalcy.
The by-elections were scheduled to take place on the 5th of December 2020 after some seats fell vacant as a result of the recalls of opposition Members of Parliament and Councillors and other vacant seats of expelled ZANU PF Chivi South MP Killer Zivhu and the passing on of Kwekwe MP. Masango Matambanadzo and others.
According to the Constitution of Zimbabwe in section 67 (1), every Zimbabwean citizen has the right to free, fair and regular elections for such elective public office established in terms of the Constitution or any other law and to make political choices free. Hence, the suspension of by-elections is a complete violation of the people’s constitutional rights to representation.
Other African countries are already intending to conduct presidential elections and others, for instance Burundi and Ghana have conducted Biometric Voter Registration for over 10 million people whilst complying with the Covid-19 regulations. Yet Zimbabwe which has recorded fewer cases and relaxed the pandemic’s restrictions continue to suspend by-elections indefinitely.
With 35 parliamentary communities and 55 wards not being represented, the suspension of the by-elections violates people’s rights to be represented by whoever they want, and the government should have engaged different stakeholders before making such an unpopular decision.
Meanwhile, through the same application, WALPE is also seeking opportunities for its members who are aspiring women leaders to contest in the by-elections to better prepare for the 2023 harmonised elections. The suspension of the by-elections has made some of the aspiring women leaders lose confidence in the electoral and governance system, something that draws back the achievement of gender equality in leadership and decision making processes.
Source: Women’s Academy for Leadership and Political Excellence (WALPE)