ELECTORAL activities will soon commence under strict Covid-19 guidelines crafted by the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) to allow for safe resumption of elections, The Sunday Mail has gathered.
The new Covid-19 Policy on Electoral Activities will include mandatory temperature checks for voters, sanitisation of participants, equipment and election material, and social distancing. ZEC has adopted a final draft of the guidelines following a consultative process with stakeholders.
The elections management body suspended all electoral activities indefinitely following the imposition of the national lockdown in March.
The lockdown restrictions imposed to curb the spread of Covid-19, including social distancing rules and restrictions on public gatherings, made free, fair and transparent elections impossible, according to ZEC.
The guidelines will be unveiled soon.
“The commission is indeed engaged in the process of developing a Covid-19 Policy on Electoral Activities mainly to guide its operations during this lockdown period,” said ZEC chief elections officer Mr Utloile Silaigwana.
“This stems from the realisation that the pandemic may be with the world for some time to come against the backdrop of the constitutional mandate of the commission to conduct elections. There is, therefore, need to maintain that balance through the development of appropriate policy guidelines that conform to current Covid-19 lockdown measures.”
Mr Silaigwana said the guidelines also cover voter registration, voter education and election day operational procedures.
“In summary, this policy outlines guidelines that all electoral stakeholders (the electorate, political players, media, observers, electoral officers) should observe in order to enhance public safety during the conduct of elections,” he said.
“There should, for instance, be normal temperature checks — sanitisation of participants, equipment and election material — social distancing and such other measures aimed at reducing the spread of the Covid-19 virus.
“The electoral processes covered in this policy include voter registration, voter education, nomination court, conduct of poll and other administrative activities.”
Mr Silaigwana said the policy will not substitute the electoral law but is a facilitative framework on how the commission should conduct its processes under a pandemic environment within the confines of the current legal framework. In a statement announcing the suspension, ZEC said: “All by-elections and other electoral activities have been suspended till further notice due to the coronavirus pandemic. The commission is taking precautionary measures to protect its employees and the general public from the pandemic.”
Several by-elections have been postponed owing to the suspension of electoral activities.