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By-elections: Parties declare readiness

Zimbabwean opposition political parties say they are geared up for the by-elections but fear the government might postpone them further following the discovery of the Covid-19 Omicron variant.

Electoral activities were suspended in March last year in response to the Covid-19 pandemic which by then had claimed one life in Zimbabwe and remained banned despite calls from political parties, civic society and diplomatic community for the government to hold the polls.

Another Covid-19 pandemic wave brought by the Omicron variant might affect Zimbabwe and might come with strict lockdowns, politicians said.

The country has a total of 133 elective vacancies, which comprise 28 parliamentary seats and 105 council seats emanating from recalls, deaths or dismissals.

In November, President Emmerson Mnangagwa announced that by-elections would be held in the first quarter of 2022, adding they would serve as a litmus test for the ruling party’s preparedness.

The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) has set April 23, 2022, as the proposed date for the elections.

In an interview with CITE, MDC Alliance Bulawayo Provincial Spokesperson, Swithern Chirowodza, said they are ready to contest.

“MDC Alliance voters have always been prepared especially in a situation where they have been shortchanged by the Covid-19 judgement, which enabled (rival party MDC-T led by Douglas) Mwonzora to get his people in Parliament against the wishes of the voters,” he said.

Chirowodza added MDC Alliance would not rule out the possibility that the Zanu PF led government would use by-elections as means of rigging for the 2023 elections.

“We are of view these by-elections, which so far had been refused are only coming against the backdrop of complaints by civic society, opposition, the diplomatic community and also the government seems to be coalescing to our views ostensibly for purposes of collecting data from by-elections as a survey for further rigging in the 2023 elections,” alleged the MDC Alliance official.

Chiworodza said in the interim they have been mobilising people to register as voters.

“Our structures have always been ready to do that which is possible, that is to reinstate what we had prior to the Covid-19 judgement,” Chirowodza highlighted.

ZAPU, which has new leadership, also indicated it would participate in the by-elections.

“We are going to be contesting by-elections. Remember that every political party exists so that we can be in power and the only way we can be in power is through elections. There’s no way we can not participate,” said ZAPU Secretary-General, Mthulisi Hanana.

Hanana said the party would field candidates in their strongholds.

“We are going to be contesting on a case by case basis, looking at membership and our structures to see if the seats are winnable. We don’t want a scenario where we waste resources but we are confident that where we contest, we are going to win. Already after congress with the new leadership that came in our numbers in terms of membership are doubling,” he claimed.

The SG, however, claimed that ‘at the back of their minds’, ZAPU knew the government did not want to go for by-elections.

“Zanu PF does not want to go for by-elections for whatever reasons and cited Covid-19 but it’s amazing how every other thing can happen. Now people are back in stadiums, we have over 70 people squashed in ZUPCO buses but when it comes to by-elections we have complaints that because of Covid-19 we can’t do that and we have waited for too long,” Hanana said.

“Now there’s a new variant and we are worried that the government is going to use this excuse to make sure we delay the issue of by-elections. We must be aware that all other political parties are unable to freely campaign but Zanu PF under the guise of government programmes and presidential tours are busy campaigning. But we are prepared to do everything to fight as much as we can to mobilise in preparation for the 2022 by-elections.”

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