By-elections remain banned as Zec resumes activities

The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) has announced that it will resume voter registration and other related field work at the start of April but by-elections still remain suspended.

Electoral activities were suspended in March last year in response to the Covid-19 pandemic which by then had claimed one life in Zimbabwe.

ZEC said the suspension was part of precautionary measures to protect its employees and the general public from infection while most of the intended by-elections were necessitated by the recalls of opposition MDC MPs and councillors.

ZEC Chief Elections Officer, Utloile Silaigwana, confirmed the development.

“ZEC would like to announce that following the relaxation of lockdown measures of Statutory Instrument 10 of 2021 on March 1, 2021, the Commission will lift the suspension of voter registration and some field work announced on January 8, 2021. The resumption of those suspension activities will come into effect on April 1, 2021,” he said in a press statement.

However, the ZEC official said in view of the danger still posed by Covid-19, there was still a need to uphold some health provisions of Statutory Instrument 10 of  2021 which are still in force.

Therefore, “the conduct of by elections remains suspended,” Silaigwana said.

“The position will be reviewed in due course and stakeholders will be advised accordingly.”

The Chief Elections Officer advised all citizens who qualify to register as voters and those wishing to transfer their registrations to visit voter registration centres at ZEC’s provincial and district centres.

“Everyone involved in those electoral activities should observe the Ministry of Health’s Covid-19 health measures and the commission’s Covid-19 policy on Electoral Activities. The policy can be downloaded from the Commission’s website,” he said.

Las year in October Vice President, Constantino Chiwenga, also the Minister of Health and Child Care announced that no by-elections would be held anytime soon as the country was not yet out of the woods regarding the Covid-19 pandemic.

He published Statutory Instrument (SI) 225A of 2020, Public Health COVID-19 Prevention, Containment and Treatment) (Amendment) Regulations, 2020 (No 4), which suspended the holding of by-elections slated for December 5, 2020.

This was despite ZEC’s earlier assertions that it was ready to hold safe by-elections in December last year, having done all the administrative work including providing Personal Protective Equipment to stakeholders.

Chiwenga’s decree was described as unconstitutional and questions were then raised as to how other countries in the continent were holding their elections including western countries such as the United States that experienced a major wreck from Covid-19.   

When pressed for an explanation last year, ZEC Chairperson, Priscilla Chigumba, said ZEC had no power in terms of the law, to dictate to the executive when by-elections should be held as it was not mandated to make policy decisions.

“The role of ZEC is to make recommendations to the executive through our line ministry of Justice. There is nowhere in the constitution of the Electoral Act that gives us the mandate to make regulations on our own behalf or to make laws,” she said at that time.

Chigumba said they could make a recommendation to the President, because he is the only one who could proclaim election dates in consultation with the commission.

She was quoted saying, “The response we received was that we cannot do it now and I don’t know what they had discussed with the health ministry. It is not for us to demand justification.”

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