Letters to the editor: Zim must learn from Zambian elections

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TOPSHOT - Zambia's incumbent president Edgar Lungu (C) casts his vote at a polling station in Lusaka on August 12, 2021, as they country holds presidential and legislative elections. (Photo by Patrick Meinhardt / AFP) (Photo by PATRICK MEINHARDT/AFP via Getty Images)

FOLLOWING an invitation by the Zambian government, the Zimbabwe Election Support Network (Zesn) deployed a mission to observe the just-ended Zambian general elections which took place on August 12, 2021.

Zesn was accredited by the Electoral Commission of Zambia (ECZ) to observe polling day processes and those at National Tally Centre during the results tabulation exercise.

Zesn wishes to congratulate the people of Zambia who came out in their numbers to vote and exhibited considerable patience as they waited for hours in long queues to cast their votes.

Overall election day was generally peaceful and orderly save for isolated incidents of violence. Zesn commends the ECZ for extending the right to vote to prisoners. Zesn was able to observe polling at both the male and female sections of the Lusaka Central Correctional Facility.

The ECZ ensured that party agents at the respective polling stations had copies of the voters’ roll, thus enhancing the transparency of the polling process. However the ECZ appeared not fully prepared for the huge turnout, with voting at some polling stations continuing well into the night and in some instances counting only commencing the following day.

Nevertheless, ECZ officials remained professional and facilitated voting by the multitudes who turned up to cast their vote even in instances where some polling officials had to work for over 15 hours.

Despite the devastating COVID-19 pandemic ravaging the world, Zambia, like Malawi in 2020, successfully conducted general elections which ushered in a new dispensation.  We wish to commend ECZ, which worked with the Health ministry and developed a health protocol tailor-made for the general elections, ensuring that ECZ fulfilled its constitutional obligation of organising regular, timely general elections.

The elections in Zambia, as witnessed in other parts of the world, are yet again proof that it is possible to conduct elections in the middle of a serious pandemic. Democracy, not the COVID-19 must have the final say. The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission can draw lessons from Zambia on how to conduct elections during a pandemic and prepare to conduct overdue by-elections, the delimitation exercise and the 2023 general elections. Zimbabwe Election Support Network

Govt must clarify Lockdown Order amendment

THE thirty-second amendment to the lockdown order was published on August 11 in Statutory Instrument 214 of 2021 and can be accessed on the Veritas website.

Its effect is simply to extend the level four lockdown until August 24. The special lockdowns imposed in Hurungwe, Kariba, Kwekwe and Makonde districts were also extended to the August 24.

What this means is that, for the duration of the extended lock-down:

  • Intercity transport is prohibited throughout the country except for  the carriage of staff, goods and equipment needed for essential services, the carriage of sick persons to hospital and other health care providers;

Travel by foreign diplomats or by foreigners seeking assistance from their countries’ diplomatic missions;

The transportation of food, fuel, basic goods and medical supplies;

The carriage of police officers, Defence Force personnel and public health officials, and

The carriage of staff, goods and equipment needed for the operation of tobacco auction floors.

  • Schools, colleges, universities and polytechnics are closed, except for:

Institutions providing online or distance education, and

Institutions providing medical training or research useful in combating COVID-19.

Other measures announced by Cabinet have not yet been given legal effect:

Opening of Victoria Falls and Kazungula border posts: Cabinet agreed on July 27 that the border posts at Victoria Falls and Kazungula will be opened to tourists who are fully vaccinated. There is nothing to this effect in the latest amendment.

  • Opening of churches: At its meeting yesterday Cabinet announced that churches could allow congregants who had received two vaccine doses to attend services, so long as “all Health and Child Care ministry and World Health Organisation protocols are adhered to”. This brief announcement leaves some points uncertain:

How many congregants can attend a church service? Is attendance limited to 50 congregants, as provided for in section 5(1)(j) of the Lockdown Order, or can an unlimited number attend?

What exactly are the protocols that must be adhered to? Presumably the congregants must observe social distancing and have their hands sanitised, but must the church premises be disinfected between services?

To what extent does the announcement apply to mosques, synagogues and other non-Christian places of worship and to places where open-air services are held?

When the lockdown order is amended to give legal effect to Cabinet’s announcement — and we hope that will be done very soon — these points will need to be clarified. Veritas