Amend constitution to end arbitrary recalls

Parliament should develop legislation to prevent recalls from being carried out arbitrarily

On November 14, 2023, the speaker of Parliament declared six National Assembly seats vacant with effect from  November 7, 2023.

This followed a recall of the then sitting members by the party’s self-imposed interim secretary-general Sengezo Tshabangu, who declared that the affected members ceased to belong to the Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC).

On February 3, 2024, the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) conducted by-elections to fill the National Assembly and local authority vacancies.

National Assembly by-elections were conducted to fill vacancies created following the recall of Mutasa Oliver (Zvimba East), Chagwiza Stephen (Goromonzi South), Chivero Admore (Chegutu West), Madzimbamuto Willard (Seke), Siziba Gift (Pelandaba-Tshabalala) and Chibaya Amos (Mkoba North).

The Zimbabwe Election Supervisory Network (Zesn) observed events leading to the by-elections like nomination court sitting and pre-electoral environment as well as voting processes for the six National Assembly seats.

 Nomination of candidates overall saw a reduction in competition for constituency seats by candidates, who lodged their nomination papers.

This is in comparison to the  June 21 2023 nomination process, in preparation for the  August 23, 2023 harmonised elections for the same constituencies.

CCC filed double candidates in two constituencies (Goromonzi South and Pelandaba-Tshabalala) and three  candidates in (Pelandaba-Tshabalala, Mkoba North and Goromonzi South).

Three recalled CCC candidates decided to run as independents in Zvimba East, Seke and Chegutu West.

Zesn relied on authentic online and print media to scan and assess the electoral environment in the run-up to the by-elections.

The environment preceding the conduct of the by-elections was very peaceful and calm.

Campaigns were minimal and the electoral aspirants used various means to reach out to the electorate.

Methods included, but were not limited to posters, flyers, door-to-door visits and social media.

On election day, Zesn deployed 271 static and 15 mobile teams.

 Observers were on the ground to observe the election day processes during opening, voting, closing and counting of the results.

 The election day recorded some worrying incidents that Zesn believe have the potential to hinder the ability of observers to discharge their duties as outlined in the Electoral Act.

 Further, Zesn also observed very low turn-out of voters who trickled in to cast their votes at different polling stations.

Zanu PF gained control of all the six  electoral constituencies.

This has increased the party’s number of elected seats in Parliament. In August 2023, Zec declared Zanu PF as winner in 136 parliamentary seats.

The November 11 by-election saw an increase in the party’s parliamentary seats to 137.

In December 2023, Zanu PF was declared the winner by the Zec in a total of seven  out of nine  of the contested seats, making a further upward move from 137 to 144 seats.

During the  February 3, 2024 by-elections, the ruling party was declared the winner by the Zec in an additional six seats bringing the party’s total number of seats to 150 elective National Assembly seats out of the 210 there by thereby surpassing the two thirds  majority which is 140 seats.

Zimbabwe has so far conducted three  rounds of by-elections, barely six  months after the 2023 August harmonised elections.

Reasons for the by-elections are centred on deaths and recalls of elected officials. The by-elections have been conducted at three  different intervals, firstly on November 11, 2023, followed by  December 9, 2023 with the recent round conducted on  February 3, 2024.

The first round of by-elections was triggered mainly by deaths of the officials and candidates, with subsequent rounds resulting from recalls.

Since October 2023, the opposition CCC has been hard hit by a wave of recalls of the elected officials, both at National Assembly and Local Authority levels as Tshabangu declared them non-party members.

Regardless of numerous efforts to challenge Tshabangu in the courts of law, recalled candidates have always lost to him, triggering the by-elections to fill the vacancies.

 The by-elections for the National Assembly on February 3, 2024, took place in an atmosphere of low voter education and growing voter apathy in the nation.

 Zesn reiterates its call that Parliament develop legislation, especially to amend Section 129 (k) of the constitution, to prevent recalls from being carried out arbitrarily.

Recalls put a burden on the national budget and reduce the value of the vote.

Further, the network recommends that  Zec and other electoral stakeholders continue supporting voter and electoral education efforts to ensure that the electorate are well informed about electoral processes, active citizenry and the importance of accountability from elected leaders in order to continuously enhance participation.

There is a need to ensure the safety and security of observers when discharging their duties without fear of reprisal to ensure public confidence in the electoral process and electoral credibility.

It is imperative to establish clear mechanisms for the protection of observers, including legal frameworks that explicitly prohibit any form of harassment or reprisal against them.

Political parties should promote a culture of non-violence and tolerance in order ensure that citizens participate freely in electoral processes. -Zesn

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