The proclamation of the dates for by elections is a huge relief to residents across Zimbabwe who suffered from poor representation, deteriorating service delivery and impacted negatively on the practice of good democratic governance in local authorities.
Residents Associations Coalition for Electoral Reforms Statement on upcoming Local Government By- Elections
In light of the proclamation, the residents’ coalition for electoral reforms (RACER) acknowledges that this is consistent with the provisions of the Electoral Act. The by elections in Zimbabwe were suspended through Statutory Instrument 225A of 2020.
The majority of the local government vacancies resulted from the recalls of elected councillors following disputes within the opposition political parties. The recalls are provided in terms of Section 129 (k) of the Constitution.
While they are provided in the law, they are done without the consultation and involvement of the electorate who voted the councillors in the first place.
We affirm that electoral choices are inseparably connected with the quality of service provision and representation.We urge residents to turn up in their huge numbers to elect their representatives in the local government by elections. Previous by elections have experienced very low voter turn-out.
To this end, the Coalition and its members are in the process of putting in place mechanisms and mobilizing for a massive voter mobilization drive aimed at addressing voter apathy witnessed in past by-elections.
However, we are still concerned over the continued existence of Statutory Instrument 225A of 2020 which suspended holding of by-elections and call upon Parliament to repeal the Statutory Instrument.It is incumbent upon the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) to fulfil its mandate in an independent and impartial manner as this is a panacea to free and fair elections.
The credibility of the upcoming by elections largely depends on the conduct of ZEC, state media and the security sector.We call upon political parties to exercise peace and political tolerance.All contesting parties must be afforded equal access to all electoral events and all candidates must be granted fair media access for campaigning and advertising purposes.
Political parties must show their commitment on gender equality in terms of electoral representation by using the by-elections as a way of increasing women representation in local authorities through fielding women candidates.Above these issues, we note with concern the inaccessibility of voting registration centres in some parts of the country due to long distances involved and this has resulted in ZEC registering a limited number of voters.
The situation has been compounded by the failure by the Registrar General’s Department to issue National Identification documents that would allow people to register as voters. If this is not addressed there is a high risk that a number of potential voters will be disenfranchised.
In light of these challenges, the Residents Coalition for Electoral Reforms will be engaging ZEC and the Registrar General’s Department as well as Parliament.
We therefore make the following recommends;
Urgent repeal of Statutory Instrument 225A of 2020 which suspended by elections to allow holding of by elections, and state must desist from the use of COVID 19 containment measures as a strategy to suppress civil and political rights provided in both domestic and international law.
Enacting legislation that will operationalize Section 278 (1) of the Constitution with clear mechanisms of effecting recalls which will provide for political parties to initiate the recall process while citizens endorses the recall through a referendum.
Residents must go to vote in numbers and shun the voices that are discouraging people to vote in the upcoming by-elections.
Political parties must use the by-elections to address gender disparities in terms of representation in our local authorities.
ZEC must create more voter registration centres to ensure potential voters are not disenfranchised on the basis of distance while the Registrar General’s Department must ensure speedy allocation of national Identification documents.