HomeOpinion & AnalysisBy-elections: Whose responsibility is it to unban them?

By-elections: Whose responsibility is it to unban them?

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THE narrative that has been fed to Zimbabweans by the government and the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) is that the country is unable to hold polls because of the need to observe COVID-19 protocols.

Following a highly contentious court decision that stripped MDC Alliance president Nelson Chamisa of the leadership of the party with those who were viewed as his supporters “recalled” from Parliament by a party they did not belong to, and replaced with chosen lackeys, government promptly banned by-elections by promulgating Statutory Instrument 225A of 2020, Public Health COVID-19 Prevention, Containment and Treatment) (Amendment) Regulations, 2020 (No 4), to suspend the holding of the polls.

People who were not elected but are the preferred opposition by the powers-that-be were then put in Parliament and council, foisted onto constituents whose interests they do not have at heart.

In March this year, Zec suspended the holding of by-elections indefinitely, citing the need to adhere to COVID-19 regulations after government tightened lockdown regulations.

So, Zimbabwe is in a comical situation where the unelected keep determining the fate of those who snubbed them at the ballot box, claiming legitimacy without any whiff of shame.

In recent weeks, government has eased lockdown restrictions and the economy has reopened, with the most basic restrictions such as masking up, sanitising of hands and social distancing.

The ruling Zanu PF party, despite the ban, conducted its own internal polls, where violence was the order of the day.

But by-elections that could compromise the composition of Parliament remain banned, lest the undesirables win again and show up the so-called co-operative opposition.

However, it appears no one wants to own up and take responsibility for the continued suspension of elections.  Health deputy minister John Mangwiro yesterday claimed his ministry had nothing to do with the ban on by-elections.

His remarks followed a meeting where Zec chairperson Justice Priscilla Chigumba told diplomats that the commission was ready to hold the elections, if government allows it.

“The commission stands ready to conduct by-elections once the statutory instrument issued by the Minister of Health and Child Care suspending the conduct of by-elections is amended to allow for the resumption of by-elections,” she told the diplomats.

“By-elections can only be held once the said suspension has been lifted.”

Mangwiro responded: “But (elections have) got nothing to do with the ministry. We don’t supervise elections.”

So, who is responsible for the ban?

We are in a ridiculous situation where a suspension has left 754 000 people in 26 constituencies with no representation in Parliament, and local authorities whose operations are paralysed because 80 or so MDC Alliance councillors are yet to be replaced.

Even for a Faustian dystopia, this is ridiculous.

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