ERC flags Mnangagwa over by-election freeze, calls for reforms

By Nkosana Dlamini

Poll based lobby, Election Resource Centre (ERC) has added to growing demands for President Emmerson Mnangagwa to call for by-elections that were long parked by authorities under ostensible precautionary measures against the spread of Covid-19.

In a statement, ERC also insisted the envisaged by-elections should be preceded by the implementation of electoral reforms to preserve the credibility of the public process.

Government postponed the holding of by-elections indefinitely early this year.

Dozens of legislators and councillors mostly from the main opposition MDC Alliance were expelled from both parliament and councils on the recommendations of MDC faction leader Douglas Mwonzora.

Mwonzora, who heads MDC-T, which was granted rights to the opposition empire by the courts, accused the affected officials of defying his authority as party leader.

The affected representatives have defiantly maintained their loyalty to Nelson Chamisa, who enjoys significant grassroot support within the feuding opposition.

MDC Alliance accuses Mnangagwa of deliberately withholding the holding of by-elections to protect his preferred opponent, Mwonzora from losing control of the opposition.

ERC, in its statement, pointed out the withholding of by-elections was yet another “pandemic” that was threatening democracy.

“By-elections are a litmus test to ZEC’s preparedness for the 2023 harmonised elections.

“Responsible authorities must ensure that when by-elections are conducted, they are conducted in a transparent, accountable and credible manner that boosts the confidence of electoral stakeholders,” said ERC.

FULL STATEMENT BY ERC

It has been 11 months since by-elections were suspended under Statutory Instrument 225a of 2020.  this is despite ZEC having developed the COVID-19 Policy on Electoral Activities with clear guidelines on how by-elections would be conducted under #COVID19, byelections have remained illegally suspended.

By-elections are a litmus test to ZEC’s preparedness for the 2023 harmonised elections. Responsible authorities must ensure that when by-elections are conducted, they are conducted in a transparent, accountable and credible manner that boosts the confidence of electoral stakeholders.

Currently, Covid-19 is not the only pandemic affecting the delivery of credible elections. The failure to adhere to constitutional principles that are fundamental to credible elections is another pandemic that is threatening democratic principles.

It is worrisome that citizens are currently underrepresented in Parliament and Local Authorities. Section 1 of the Constitution states that Zimbabwe is a unitary, democratic and sovereign republic and is bound by principles of good governance which include free, fair and regular elections according to section 2 (b) (i). The ERC, therefore, calls for President Emmerson Mnangagwa to undertake his mandate of proclaiming by-elections since there is no court order setting aside the elections.

Conclusively, the resumption of by-elections must be preceded by the implementation of electoral reforms as by-elections without reforms pose a threat to the credibility and acceptability of electoral outcomes.