INDEPENDENT electoral watchdog, Zimbabwe Elections Support Network (Zesn), has accused Vice-President Constantino Chiwenga (pictured), who doubles as Health minister, of putting democracy on quarantine by suspending the holding of by-elections, which were due in December this year.
BY BLESSED MHLANGA
Chiwenga, using Statutory Instrument 225A of 2020, Public Health COVID-19 Prevention, Containment and Treatment) (Amendment) Regulations, 2020 (No 4), last Friday suspended all by-elections under the guise of a COVID-19 health emergency.
But Zesn yesterday said the VP’s action was an affront to democracy and tantamount to usurping the authority of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec).
The electoral body had announced that by-elections would be held by December 5, most of them created after MDC-T leader Thokozani Khupe recalled 32 MDC Alliance MPs and 165 councillors for refusing to recognise her as official party leader.
Although the move has been welcomed by Khupe, Zesn said Chiwenga’s move curtailed the independence of Zec.
“The move taken as a health emergency COVID-19 response undercuts constitutional principles on freedom of expression, good electoral practice and curtails the independence of Zec and Parliamentary oversight,” Zesn said.
The watchdog accused government of targeting elections only in the containment of the COVID-19 while members of the public were being forced to queue for basics and transport to and from work.
“What is good for the goose is good for the gander,” Zesn said.
“Parliament conducted public hearings on Constitutional Amendment Bill No.2 at the height of the pandemic, citizens queue on a daily basis for basic commodities, cash outs at banks and money agents, social welfare and food aid from government, foundations, NGOs and churches, among other organisations are providing aid while observing safety measures.
“The government has also relaxed the lockdown measures.”
MDC-T interim secretary-general Douglas Mwonzora said his party welcomed the suspension of the by-elections.
“There is a law that was published that there will be no by-elections, there are some who had said by-elections will happen on 5 December, others even said nominations will happen on 10 October, there were lies,” Mwonzora said.
Zec chairperson Justice Priscilla Chigumba, announced the by-elections timelines while appearing before the Portfolio Committee on Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs committee. She also announced that Zec would need US$18 million for the entire exercise.
“This law was promulgated as government is looking at the COVID-19 pandemic, as MDC-T, we know that COVID-19 is there, we have leaders in the party who were infected, we thank God they survived, we have nine who were infected in the MDC-T, so we understand what the minister has done,” Mwonzora said.