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‘Zim democracy under siege’

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BY MOSES MATENGA/NQOBANI NDLOVU 

GOVERNMENT has been urged to promote democratic governance processes by among others, lifting a suspension on elections as the country joined the rest of the world in commemorating the International Day of Democracy (IDD) on Wednesday.

Commemorated annually on September 15, the aim of the IDD is to encourage governments to uphold human rights and uphold democratic principles.

The United Nations has said that the values of freedom, respect for human rights and the principle of holding periodic and genuine elections by universal suffrage are essential elements of democracy.

The day comes at a time when there are growing concerns that the Zanu PF government has effectively “quarantined” democracy by maintaining an indefinite ban on by-elections under the guise of enforcing COVID-19 safety protocols.

A number of by-elections are pending following the recall of over 40 MDC Alliance legislators and about 80 councillors by the MDC-T led by Douglas Mwonzora.

The Election Resource Centre (ERC), Zimbabwe Election Support Network (Zesn) and Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition (CiZC) said democracy was under siege, hence the need for action.

“We urge the Second Republic to enact electoral reforms and reinstate by-elections to ensure a return to participatory democracy and that citizens are equally represented in council and Parliament,” ERC said.

The government suspended the holding of by-elections last year citing COVID-19.

“Despite promising to preside over a democratic government that respects the Constitution, rule of law, and tolerance, it is regrettable that four years after these utterances by President Emmerson Mnangagwa and 41 years after independence, Zimbabweans are underrepresented in Parliament and local government, with rampant human rights violations that were tenets of colonial rule under Ian Smith,” ERC added.

“Zimbabweans battled for these fundamental rights, and they must not be jeopardised. Unfortunately, in modern Zimbabwe, more than 90 wards and 26 constituencies are unrepresented, without councillors or MPs.”

“The ERC explicitly emphasises that calls for electoral reforms and the reinstatement of by-elections do not imply a push for regime change, but are key for true representative democracy,” ERC said.

Zesn said: “Democracy has also suffered a huge blow, especially in Zimbabwe, with the indefinite suspension of by-elections and other electoral activities.

This has led to the quarantining of democracy and prevention of equal participation of citizens in democratic electoral and governance processes.”

CiZC spokesperson Marvellous Khumalo said: “We implore the government to uphold tenets of democracy and desist from further shrinking the democratic space.

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