BY MOSES MATENGA/BEAUTY NYUKE
ZIMBABWE will only hold by-elections if the country vaccinates about 10 million people, representing 60% of the population required to reach herd immunity, Justice minister Ziyambi Ziyambi has said.
In October last year, government through Vice-President and Health Minister Constantino Chiwenga ordered the suspension of by-elections citing COVID-19 fears.
The by-elections were necessitated by the recall of MDC Alliance MPs by the Douglas Mwonzora-led MDC-T and deaths of some MPs, which left about 26 seats vacant, according to the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec).
Contributing to parliamentary debate on the Zec report for the year 2020 on Thursday, Ziyambi said the country was sticking to the suspension of by-elections due to COVID-19.
He said polls would only take place upon achievement of the vaccination targets.
“You do not vote when you are dead. You do not exercise your democratic rights when you are dead,” Ziyambi said.
“I believe that all things being equal, once we have reached herd immunity, we are going to vote. So for now, we stick to the laws that are there.”
In April this year, Chiwenga said the country was targeting the 10 million vaccination mark by year-end to allow life to get back to normal.
Of the intended target, only
1 352 514 had received their first doses by Thursday, while 664 587 had received their second jab.
But Dzivarasekwa MP Edwin Mushoriwa (MDC Alliance) said Zec was not moving with speed to fulfil its mandate and the delay was prejudicing the electorate currently not represented in Parliament.
“If you check the Zec report of 2020 and then you check its mandate and what it is supposed to do, you will realise that there are a lot of gaps that need to be filled,” he said.
“As we speak right now, we have got numerous vacancies in the House and a number of constituencies do not have MPs. A number of wards in this country do not have councillors. By-elections and representation is the key ingredient in a democratic society.”
Mushoriwa said the failure to conduct by-elections in a country with at least 20% of the people not represented was putting the “democratic ethos of a country in jeopardy”.
“We do not want to have a situation where other people will then tend to view the electoral commission as a commission in handcuffs,” he said.
“It appears as if it is doing the bidding of other people rather than the mandate which it was given by the Constitution and the people of Zimbabwe.”
Mushoriwa said a lot of gatherings had been allowed to proceed in Zimbabwe and raised questions why government was particular in stopping by-elections.
“We have had quite a number of church gatherings, some apostolic sects having more than 10 000 people gathered at a shrine.
“Right now, we are here passing laws, budgets and other things, but we also need to be cognisant — what about the people of Kuwadzana, who do not have a voice in Parliament? What about the people in Highfield, in Mkoba, they also need to have their voice. They need to have a channel upon which they can throw in some of their recommendations and some of the things that they want Parliament to do and to change.”
The MDC Alliance desperately wants the by-elections to regain its parliamentary presence after losing most of its legislators, a development that also forced it to lose funding under the Political Parties (Finance) Act.
Yesterday, Zec announced that it had suspended operations for two weeks due to the raging COVID-19 pandemic.
“It is hereby notified for the general public that all Zimbabwe Electoral Commission offices across the country will temporarily close for 14 days from July 26, 2021 to August 8, 2021; in response to rising COVID-19 cases countrywide,” Zec chairperson Justice Priscilla Chigumba said in a statement.
Zimbabwe has recorded 95 722 new infections and 63 819 recoveries in the past two weeks.