BY MIRIAM MANGWAYA
THE European Union (EU) has urged government to urgently lift the ban on by-elections and ensure that seats left vacant after MDC Alliance Members of Parliament and councillors were recalled by the Douglas Mwonzora-led MDC-T are filled in accordance with the country’s constitutional dictates.
More than 40 parliamentary seats and 80 council seats are still vacant after the recalls last year.
The MDC-T quickly filled more than 15 proportional representation seats in Senate and the National Assembly. Section 158(2) of the Constitution provides that a by-election should be held within 90 days of the occurrence of a vacancy, whether in Parliament or in a local authorities.
Vice-President and Health minister Constantino Chiwenga and the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) suspended by-elections last year citing the need to adhere to COVID-19 preventive measures.
The EU then held a meeting with government ministers on June 10, 2021 and recommended that government should allow the public to exercise their right to choose their representatives in Parliament.
European Commission vice-president Josep Borrell, who is also EU high representative for foreign affairs and security policy, said the organisation was following up on the implementation of its recommendations on human rights violations, post-2018 elections.
He was responding to questions by a member of the European Parliament to the European External Action Service in Brussels asking them to explain the action that will be taken by the EU to support civil and political rights in Zimbabwe.
“The EU held a formal political dialogue with Zimbabwe at ministerial level on June 10, 2021, in Harare. On this occasion, the EU raised the issue of the recall of the MDC Alliance MPs from Parliament.
“The EU also calls upon the Zimbabwean government to organise at the earliest occasion the holding of by-elections for all vacant seats in Parliament to uphold the crucial representational role of Parliament by ensuring that all people are at all times represented in Parliament by an elected member of their choice,” Borrell said.
He said the EU was supporting Zec and other private voluntary electoral bodies so that Parliament could effectively perform its constitutional mandate.
“Through the United Nations Development Programme, the EU supports the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission as well as the civic society organisations active in the electoral process. One of the components of the project foresees an effective engagement between Zec and election stakeholders, including political parties. The EU has also contributed to programmes to strengthen the capacity of Parliament to deliver on its constitutional mandate.”
Local opposition leaders and rights activists have argued that the continued ban on by-elections was unjustified since countries that were severely hit by COVID-19 held theirs.
Justice minister Ziyambi Ziyambi said he was not aware of the meeting conducted by the EU and the alleged ministers, but insisted that elections could not be held when COVID-19 was taking its toll.
“The Ministry of Health advised us not to hold elections amid the pandemic,” Ziyambi said.
“People are dying each day due to the pandemic. Citizens will not exercise their constitutional rights when they are dead. Elections cannot be held in one day, but they are conducted through a process. As a government we cannot risk losing more of our people merely to uphold constitutional rights.”