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ZESN implores Govt to lift ban on by-elections

The Zimbabwe Election Support Network (ZESN) has implored the government to lift the ban stopping by-elections in order to uphold democracy and have adequate representation of citizens.

The electoral watchdog argues that the prolonged period for which some wards and constituencies have gone without representation in Parliament including local authorities do not augur well for democracy. 

ZESN made these recommendations in its latest report on Monitoring Government Responses to the Covid-19 Pandemic issued Tuesday. 

As a raft of measures to limit spread of the Covid-19 pandemic, the government issued Statutory Instrument 225 of 2020, which indefinitely suspended the holding of by-elections across the country. 

“Government should consider lifting the Statutory Instrument indefinitely suspending by-elections to uphold democracy and make sure there is adequate representation of the electorate,” read the ZESN report. 

“SI 225 of 2020  indefinitely suspending by-elections in vacant wards and constituencies on account of Covid-19, is yet to be lifted. However, within political parties, most notably the ruling party, preparations for by-elections are ongoing, including the holding of internal elections.”

ZESN noted that Zambia’s general elections on August 12, 2021 demonstrated the possibility of holding elections successfully during the Covid-19 pandemic, citing that the prolonged period for which some wards and constituencies have gone without representation do not augur well for democracy. 

“Given the possibility of the next harmonised elections being held amid Covid-19, the government may need to consider the holding of elections during the pandemic, starting with the by-elections, with Covid-19 prevention measures enforced throughout the electoral processes,” ZESN stated. 

“This is particularly so in view of the fact that, not only has the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) developed a policy on how to conduct elections amid Covid-19, but other sectors such as education have opened up, with resumption of activity in schools and institutions of higher learning.”

ZESN further recommended that ZEC deploys mobile voter registration units periodically so as to make registration centres more accessible.

The report also highlighted that most areas around Zimbabwe are struggling to access clean, safe water as well as adequate health services and also encouraged local authorities including the Zimbabwe National Water Authority to consistently provide water.

The government was also implored to take measures to resolve water accessibility challenges in affected communities.

“While most health facilities were reported to be offering services as before the Covid-19 era some shortages of basic medication were still reported in some constituencies,” read the ZESN report.

“The accessibility of clean water was reported to be a challenge in some constituencies such as Epworth, Makokoba, Binga North, Nkayi South, Umguza, Glen Norah, Gokwe Chireya, Chiredzi South, Chakari and in areas such as Rusununguko and Mapako in Chinhoyi, Zviyambe in Wedza South, Tinoengana village in Ward 30 in Chiadzwa, as well as Ward 10 in Chikomba West and Ward 5 in Chiredzi West.”

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