It’s not yet safe for by-elections: Cabinet

BY BLESSED MHLANGA

GOVERNMENT has said it will open the electoral playing field for contestation once it was satisfied that political parties will stick to set COVID-19 regulations.

Speaking during a post-Cabinet media briefing yesterday, Defence minister Oppah Muchinguri-Kashiri said while government had allowed business to resume operations, it would not rush to do the same for political contestation.

“While all sectors of the economy have been opened, it has been a process of consultation and presentation with those sectors. There are statutory instruments we have put in place which comply with World Health Organisation (WHO) guidelines,” she said.

Muchinguri-Kashiri said political players had not shown any commitment to stick to WHO guidelines.

“We have not received any representations from the political space that they are ready to engage the government on the issue of by-elections. They don’t demonstrate capacity that they will abide by the WHO guidelines. I would rather not comment on this until the time comes,” she
said.

Her statement came weeks after the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) said it had presented COVID-19 compliant electoral protocols.

Zec chairperson Justice Priscilla Chigumba in her roadmap which dealt with holding of elections under COVID-19, proposed that by-elections be held by December 5, but Vice-President Constantino Chiwenga who also doubles as Health minister barred the holding of the by-elections citing fears of spread of the virulent disease.

The by-elections were triggered by the recall of 32 MDC Alliance MPs by the Thokozani Khupe-led MDC-T.

Khupe’s party members have since been sworn in to fill 15 party list seats.

In an unrelated matter, Cabinet also reduced the costs of acquiring health certification documents from the initial US$100 to US$25.

Cabinet also announced that schools were now ready to open for phase two, which will include Grade Six, Form 3s and Form 5s.

This is despite a public outcry by parents and teachers’ unions that schools were not yet ready for reopening since teachers were on strike.

Government said it had set aside US$32 million for disaster preparedness ahead of the rainy season. Zimbabwe was struck by Cyclone Idai in the last rainy season, leaving hundreds dead and a trail of infrastructure destruction.

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