We the Residents Associations under the banner of Residents Coalition for Electoral Reforms, an alliance of Residents Associations advocating for electoral and local governance reforms urges the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) to facilitate the urgent holding of by elections to fill the vacancies left by the massive recalls of elected Councillors and Members of Parliament in Zimbabwe.
We stand guided by Section 159 of the constitution which provides for the holding of by elections whenever a vacancy occurs in any elective public office within ninety (90) days.
We assert our position and bring clarity to all residents that the President has no mandate in fixing the date or proclaiming and holding of by-elections as peddled in some sections of the media.
In terms of the Electoral Act 121(1) and (2) the town clerk or the chief executive officer of a local authority with a casual or special vacancy must notify in writing to the Minister of Local Government and the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission in no later than twenty-one days after the town clerk or chief executive officer becomes aware of the vacancy.
We expect that upon receiving that notification that the Commission (ZEC) shall publish a notice in accordance with section 121A (2)(a) of the Electoral Act which states “Not less than twenty-eight or more than sixty-six days before the day appointed for any by-election to fill a casual vacancy or special vacancy, the Commission shall, by notice published in a newspaper and posted at its office”, stating the number of vacancies to be filled and the Wards in which the vacancies have occurred.
The dates and places of holding such by elections within that council area with a vacancy are fixed by the Commission in no less than fourteen or more than twenty-one days after the publication of the notice in the newspaper, on which a nomination court will sit in terms of section 46 to receive nominations of candidates for the by-elections.
We affirm that the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission has a constitutional mandate that is supposed to be independent from state institutions to cause, prepare, proclaim and conduct the by-elections without fear, favour or prejudice.
We bemoan continued suffocating of the peoples’ will in choosing their elected representatives under the guise of complying with COVID 19 protocols.
The selective application and enforcement of COVID-19 protocols of shelving or suspending by elections while political rallies, primary elections and demonstrations are being conducted exposes the states’ unwillingness to uphold the Constitution.
Article 25 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights provides for every citizen the right and opportunity to take part in the conduct of public affairs, directly or through freely chosen representatives.
We reiterate that there can be no human rights without democracy, nor democracy without human rights and the suspension of by-elections is a direct attack to representative democracy.
The vacuum of leadership created by rampant recalls and deaths of elected officials while by-elections are not held in terms of the law has paralysed the oversight and representative functions of elected leadership in local authorities and parliament.
The continued delay in holding the by elections has given rise to speculation that there are machinations to push and delay the by-elections so that they can fall within the nine-month period before the general election. This would mean that the vacancies may remain unfilled until the 2023 harmonised elections.
We warn political leaders and elected representatives that ONLY citizens have the right to elect their representatives and any arrangement outside this framework is unlawful and unconstitutional.
We reiterate that suppressing and suffocating the will of the people to elect their representatives both at parliament and local government levels has serious implications on the legitimacy of governmental authority.
We lament over the suspension of Biometric Voter Registration Blitz by ZEC without specified reasons and these actions will continue to raise questions among citizens over the independence of the electoral body,
We therefore recommend the following;
- By-elections must be held in accordance with Section 158 and 159 of the Constitution as they are overdue.
- Zimbabwe Electoral Commission must maintain its independence and fulfil its mandate by immediately proclaiming and conducting by-elections as provided in section 239 of the constitution, and in terms of the Electoral Act 121(2) publish areas with vacancies and dates for elections in the newspaper and its offices.
- Zimbabwe Electoral Commission must fulfil its objectives of entrenching human rights, democracy, constitutionalism and secure the observance of democratic values and principles by the
- State and all institutions and agencies of the government NOT vice versa.
- We encourage residents in areas without elected representatives to go and register to vote, be prepared to participate in the by-elections
- Revoking Statutory Instrument 225A of 2020 which suspended by elections to allow holding of by elections, and government should desist from using COVID 19 as a strategy to suppress civil and political rights provided in both domestic and international law.
- Political parties must show their commitment on gender equality in terms of electoral representation by using the by-elections as a way of increasing women representation in local authorities through fielding women candidates.
Accordingly, all persons must be afforded equal access to all electoral events and all candidates must be granted fair media access for campaigning and advertising purposes.
Source: Residents Coalition for Electoral Reforms