By Lerato Ndlovu
Organisations around the country under the banner of the Youth Coalition have signed a petition demanding that the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) to lift the ban on by-elections which took effect from March 23 2020.
In their statement, the Zimbabwe Election Commission (ZEC) Chief Elections Officer Mr Utloile Silaigwana announced that some electoral activities that were suspended due to the pandemic and lockdown measures were recommenced with effect from April 1 except the ban on by-elections.
“ZEC, would like to announce that following the relaxation of lockdown measures of Statutory Instrument 10 of 2021 on 1 March, the commission will lift the suspension of voter registration and some field work it announced on 8 January. The resumption of these suspended activities will come into effect on 1 April 2021.
“However, in view of the danger still posed by the Covid-19 pandemic and the need to uphold some health provisions of Statutory Instrument 10 of 2021 which are still in force, the conduct of by-elections remains suspended. This position will be reviewed in due course and stakeholders will be advised accordingly”.
The youth organizations state that they were disturbed with the suspension of by-elections, stating that the urgency of the health response should not be used as a pretext to suppress other political, democratic rights and fundamental freedoms of Zimbabweans.
“We appreciate and acknowledge the importance of health and safety of all participants in the electoral process and the need for restrictions to prevent the spread of COVID-19, but the urgency of the health response should not be used as a pretext to unreasonably limit and suppress other political, democratic rights and fundamental freedoms of Zimbabweans.
“As youth driven organizations we are deeply disturbed and concerned with the continued suspension of the by-elections, when other entities that have big numbers of people are operating, it seems like a ploy to suppress the right of citizens to representation in the legislature and local authorities,” they said.
They went on to say that ZEC must draw lessons on how other countries in the Southern Africa region and African continent such as South Africa, Malawi, Uganda, and Nigeria have conducted and administered local authority elections, by-elections, and general elections during the COVID-19 pandemic.
They urged ZEC to engage and consult with all electoral stakeholders including political parties, candidates, and civil society to achieve political and administrative consensus on how to deliver free and fair elections within the context of COVID-19 pandemic and on how to ensure compliance to the regulations and procedures set within the context of a pandemic.
The petition was signed by, Zimbabwe National Students Union (ZINASU), Youth Initiatives for Community Development, Youth Alliance for Democracy, African Youth Portal, Youth Forum Zimbabwe, Lupane Youth for Development Trust, Mutasa Youth Forum Trust, Community Youth Development Trust, Youth Empowerment and Transformation Trust (YETT), Young Advocates for Inclusion Network, Light Bearers Youth Initiative Trus