Youths fret over by-elections delay



THE Youth Coalition has joined other civic organisations and opposition parties in demanding the immediate lifting of a ban on by-elections, saying the delays were shortchanging the electorate.

The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) has since last year maintained a blanket ban on by-elections as a public safety measure following the outbreak of COVID-19.

In a statement yesterday, Youth Coalition said Zec should take a cue from countries such as South Africa, Malawi, Uganda and Nigeria which have successfully held elections in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Zec recently announced the resumption of some of the suspended electoral activities following the relaxation of the COVID-19-induced lockdown measures, but maintained a tight lid on by-elections.

“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,” the youth group said.

“Businesses, universities, schools, and other sectors were opened. Therefore, the urgency of the health response should not be used as a ploy to unreasonably continue to suspend the by-elections and suppress the right of citizens to representation in the Legislature and local authorities.”

Zimbabwe’s Constitution demands that vacancies in Parliament and local authorities must be filled within 90 days through by-elections.

“We, therefore, call on 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.”

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