The Election Resource Centre (ERC) notes with concern the continued use without legal authority of Press Releases by the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) to suspend electoral activities. ZEC has the responsibility to go to court to seek legal authority to suspend electoral activities. The latest Press Release published by ZEC on 7 January 2021, further suspended all electoral activities in Zimbabwe for the duration of the 30-day lockdown imposed by Statutory Instrument 10 of 2021.
While welcoming the efforts of the Government in the fight against COVID-19, the ZEC must be compliant with the law in arriving at any suspension of electoral activities. Constitutionally, ZEC is not empowered to continually postpone electoral activities via press releases. The continued suspension of all electoral activities, void of the adherence to laws which qualify the suspension of electoral activities is constitutional defiance. ZEC should be reminded to conform to principles of constitutionalism by seeking legal condonation for the suspension through the courts. Any suspension of electoral activities must be sought by ZEC through a court order justifying the continued suspension of electoral activities. The neighbouring Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) of South Africa recently stated that the lockdown restrictions curtailed political activity, imperiling the freeness and fairness of the elections, which forced the IEC to seek the court’s approval in postponing by-elections, following consultations with political parties.
The ERC urges ZEC to adhere to international standards and take proactive steps in adequately consulting stakeholders affected by the ongoing suspension of electoral activities to find legal, sustainable solutions to the electoral impasse, brought on by COVID-19. Transparency, accountability and credibility should underline all the actions undertaken by ZEC. Electoral rights are sacrosanct to principles of democracy and due process ought to be respected when limiting them. ERC urges the ZEC to take the aforementioned calls.
Source: Election Resource Centre (ERC)