The Zimbabwe Socio-Economic Democrats (ZSD), a political party with roots in the Midlands Province, has urged other political parties in the country to boycott the March 26 by-elections citing the ‘early’ closure of the voters’ roll, which the party feel has already deprived ‘thousands’ of first time voters an opportunity to exercise their democratic right to vote.
The by-elections are meant to fill in 150 elective vacancies, made up of 28 parliamentary and 122 council seats.
According to the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) only 2 972 new voters registered to vote in the whole of 2021, something that has been questioned by civic society organisations who suspect figures could have been manipulated.
The closure of the by-elections voters’ roll on January 8, two days after the proclamation of election dates in terms of the country’s laws, means that anyone who registered afterwards will not vote in the impending polls.
The voters’ roll for council seats closed much earlier when vacancies of the local authority occurred and were published in ZEC notices.
ZSD leader, Nkosikhona Ndlovu, said “a large population of would-be voters were already disenfranchised” adding political parties must work together and push for electoral reforms, instead of participating in the “costly ZWL$1.5 billion and poorly planned” b-elections.
“ZEC has deprived thousands of prospective first-time voters an opportunity to participate in the upcoming by-elections,” he said.
Ndlovu said ZEC closed voter registration ‘too early’ for the upcoming by-elections yet it had failed to provide adequate and accessible registration centres throughout the country.
“Clearly our youths have been disenfranchised in exercising their democratic right to participate in the by-elections as enshrined in our Zimbabwe Constitution which states in Chapter 7 that the “State must ensure that all eligible citizens, that is to say the citizens qualified under the Fourth Schedule, are registered as voters,” he said.
The ZSD leader said while the lockdown was necessary to control the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic, there was selective application of lockdown regulations, as opposition political parties were effectively restricted in holding political activities while the ruling party continued to hold its gatherings unrestricted.
“The ruling party held their internal elections without any hindrance. This selective application of the law is a major factor in determining the balance on the political playing field,” Ndlovu lamented.
“The State and all institutions and agencies of government at every level must take reasonable measures, including affirmative action programmes, to make sure that youths have opportunities to associate and to be represented and participate in political, social, economic and other spheres of life.”
The ZSD leader said it was puzzling that there is no mention by ZEC on the Diaspora Vote which is provided for in the country’s constitution.
“That said, we are calling for all political parties to boycott this costly ZWL$1.5 billion by-elections and together push for electoral reforms and the demilitarisation of ZEC needed for free and fair national elections. We further demand the reintroduction of the Mobile Voter Registration Blitz to make sure our citizens have access to register and vote,” Ndlovu suggested.