via ZESN ready to observe March 27, 2015 by-elections – The Zimbabwean 21 January 2015
The Zimbabwe Election Support Network has expressed its preparedness to observe the coming by-elections in Mt Darwin West and Chirumhanzu-Zibagwe constituencies set for March 27, 2015.
ZESN said it will play its role in the by-elections as they were proclaimed by President Robert Mugabe according to the Electoral Act, which provides that: “The seat of the Member of Parliament becomes vacant upon the member becoming President or a Vice- President.”
President Mugabe through the government gazette has since proclaimed 27 March 2015 as the date for by elections in the two constituencies while the nomination court will seat on 29 January 2015
The constituencies fell vacant following the appointment in 2013 of former Vice President Joyce Mujuru and the elevation of Emmerson Mnangagwa to the post of Vice President of Zimbabwe in December 2014.
In a statement, ZESN noted that; “while the proclamation of the dates for the by-elections is in line with the provisions of the Electoral Act, it took over one year for the President to declare vacant the Mt Darwin East Constituency.
“ZESN encourages the government to comply with the timelines provided in the legal framework of elections to enhance confidence in the electoral processes.
“Furthermore, ZESN calls for more effort in the realignment of the Electoral Act with the new Constitution to ensure that ZEC is fully capacitated to carry out its mandate.”
ZESN observed that Government should urgently address the existing legal vacuum on voter registration, to allow ZEC to take over voter registration and management of voters’ roll functions.
It said currently there is no Law that explicitly identifies the government institution that is responsible for management of the voters roll and for voter registration.
“The Constitution has provisions that give ZEC full control of the voter registration process and management of the voters’ roll, but the Electoral Amendment Act failed to capture the spirit of these constitutional provisions.”
According to ZESN, this resulted in neither ZEC nor the Registrar General having the legal mandate to register voters or update the voters’ roll.
Government was urged to urgently resolve the legal vacuum because people who turned 18 years of age or who sought to transfer after the voter registration processes leading up to the 2013 harmonised elections, were disenfranchised due to the impasse between ZEC and the Registrar General and will not be able to participate in these by-elections.
A call was made for the electoral reform to address gaps that exist in the electoral framework regarding people’s right to vote, need for repeal of the Referendums Act and strengthening the effectiveness of the electoral court.
ZEC was advised to consider producing literature translated into local languages that simplify and summarize the electoral legislative framework.
“ZESN calls for comprehensive and inclusive voter education exercises with adequate financial and human resources effectively decentralized to the ward level in each constituency to provide adequate information to the electorate, in order to ensure that eligible voters are not further disenfranchised.”
The Electoral Support Network said it would continue to support and advocate for the creation of a more conducive environment for the holding of democratic elections in Zimbabwe.