Women’s rights organisations have called on government and the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) to lift the ban on the holding of by-elections following its announcement to lift a ban on voter registration on Tuesday but maintained a suspension on by-elections citing the lingering threat paused by Covid-19.
The undersigned women’s rights groups, working on promoting democracy, good governance and the full participation of women, women with disabilities (WWDs) and young women in electoral processes are deeply concerned with the indefinite suspension of by-elections in Zimbabwe.
Government has since been relaxing lockdown regulations with a recent stance allowing informal businesses to resume operations.
This is despite political parties conducting activities in some constituencies, at times, in violation of Covid-19 regulations.
The group in their statement noted that citizens’ voice and representation in key decision-making platforms such as parliament and council is critical in the fight against COVID-19.
“Whilst acknowledging the impact of COVID 19, we call for the lift of the indefinite ban on by-elections as it limits citizens’ voice in this context and militates against good governance, constitutionalism and equal participation of citizens in electoral processes and civic affairs. Women, WWDs and young women are underrepresented in elected leadership positions” the group said
A total of 26 constituencies and 80 wards are unrepresented following the unfortunate deaths of representatives and unprecedented recalls on dozens of MDC Alliance MPs by the rival MDC-T which was granted rights to the main opposition when the party’s leadership wrangle spilled onto the courts.
The group indicated that women, WWDs and young women are underrepresented in elected leadership positions and prolonging the ban on by-elections will maintain this status quo that has failed to address factors that result in exclusion and lack of effective participation of these marginalised groups in electoral processes.
The group also called on government to uphold what is stipulated in the national constitution and avoid trembling on people’s rights.
“The continued ban on by-elections is an assault on the legislative authority of the people of Zimbabwe (as provided for in Section 117) who cannot elect their representatives into parliament. The limitations placed by this ban on the rights and freedoms enshrined in the constitution e.g. the right to political participation (Section 67) are unfair, unreasonable and unjustifiable in a democratic society”
“Section 159 of the Constitution explicitly requires that by- elections must be held within 90 days after the vacancy occurs. No subsidiary legislation can overturn this explicit constitutional provision that is binding on everyone including both the Executive and the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC)” the statement reads
Election watchdogs, including the Election Resource Centre (ERC), and the Zimbabwe Electoral Support Network (ZESN) have cited elections elsewhere during the Covid-19 era, arguing Zimbabwe can do the same responsibly without risking the spread of the illness.
The women rights organisations represented in the group include; Economic Justice for Women Project (EJWP), Women of Africa (WOA),Female Student Network Trust (FSNT), Institute for Young Women’s Development (IYWD), Women in Politics Support Unit (WIPSU), Action for Women in Development and Enterprise (Act4Women), Deaf Zimbabwe Trust (DZT), Women’s Academy For Leadership and Political Excellence (WALPE), Self Help Development Foundation (SHDF), Women’s Institute For Leadership Development (WILD), Girls and Women Empowerment Network Trust (GWEN), The Girls Table, Female Prisoners Support Trust (FEMPRIST), Women and Law in Southern Africa (WLSA), Sprout Women Empowerment Trust (SWET), Women Trust Africa (WTA) and Imba Mukadzi Umuzi Ngumama Trust (IMUNT).