THE Zimbabwe Election Support Network (Zesn) recently hosted a Twitter Space discussion on the topic: Is Zimbabwe ready for the harmonised August 23 elections?
The main objective of the discussion was to assess election preparedness for the August 23 elections in Zimbabwe.
The interactive discussion brought together representatives from different political parties, namely Gift Siziba representing the Citizens Coalition for Change, Linda Masarira the president of the Labour Economists and African Democrats, Chengetai Guta representing the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) and Kelvin Mapanda from the Zimbabwe African People’s Union.
The virtual discussion, which had over 1 400 participants who tuned in live to the platform, was moderated by Musa Kika.
The conversation noted that Zimbabwe has a history of contested electoral outcomes and if issues are not addressed, history will repeat itself, hence there is need for an improved environment to ensure peaceful, transparent and credible elections.
Masarira opened the dialogue by citing challenges that were faced at the recently ended nomination court, the major impediment being the processes that discriminate candidates using local currency.
She also highlighted that very few women managed to lodge their nomination papers.
She described the current electoral system as very patriarchal saying that Zimbabwe is still far from achieving the 50/50 gender parity as prescribed by the Constitution.
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Masarira was of the opinion that free and fair elections in 2023 are a pipe dream
She said Members of Parliament should push for electoral reforms way before elections instead of doing so on the eve of the polls.
She noted that election observer missions reports often reflect their own interests and that they have never given a true reflection of what happens on election day wholesomely.
Guta mentioned that his political party was advocating for all nominated candidates to have their fees paid centrally, but the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission refused.
He noted that MDC is not yet ready for the polls.
Recommendations were proffered which include the need for ensuring that electoral reforms are number one on the agenda for Members of Parliament once they get into the National Assembly and the need to review the exorbitant nomination fees for candidates which are exclusionary and elitist. - Zesn
Women missing in 2023 elections
THE recently issued Statutory Instrument (SI) 114 of 2023 on the Statute Law Compilation and Revision (Correction of Constitution of Zimbabwe Amendment No 2 Act 2021) “amends” section 268 of the Constitution.
Section 268 provides that each province or metropolitan province has a council and that 10 women must be elected to those councils under a proportional representation system.
This, therefore, excludes men.
SI 114 of 2023 seeks to remedy this through the inclusion of both male and female candidates to be nominated.
While the exclusion of men may have been unintended, it must be borne in mind that after being enacted in 2021, section 268 has been in effect without any objections.
Furthermore, once an election proclamation date has been made, a law affecting an election cannot be made or altered.
Notwithstanding, amending a Constitution is a significant process that requires specific procedures and approvals to ensure its legitimacy and democratic participation.
Constitutional amendments typically follow specific procedures outlined within the Constitution itself.
These procedures often involve a more comprehensive and deliberative process, such as parliamentary approval and public consultation, therefore, falling outside the ambit of an SI.
SIs are regulations or rules created by government bodies to implement or supplement existing legislation.
They are typically used to address specific details and procedures related to the application of the law.
Constitutions, on the other hand, are fundamental documents that outline the principles, structure and functions of a government.
The process of amending the Constitution is outlined in section 328 of the Constitution itself.
This process does not involve amending the Constitution through a statutory instrument.
Instead, it requires more extensive procedures, including parliamentary approval and a national referendum.
According to the Constitution, an amendment to the Constitution can be initiated by a Member of Parliament or by the President.
The proposed amendment must be presented in the form of a Bill, which is then debated and voted upon by both Houses of Parliament: the Senate and the National Assembly.
For the amendment to pass, it requires the support of at least two-thirds of the total membership of each house of Parliament.
If the amendment is approved by Parliament, it is then submitted to the President for assent.
However, the process does not end with parliamentary approval.
The Constitution mandates that any amendment that affects certain key provisions, such as those related to fundamental rights, the sovereignty of Zimbabwe, the term limit of the President, and the electoral system, must be put to a national referendum.
In the referendum, the amendment must be approved by a majority of the voters.
This means that a significant portion of the electorate must participate and vote in favour of the proposed amendment for it to be ratified.
It is important to note that amending the Constitution is a significant undertaking and requires broad political support and public participation.
The process aims to ensure that changes to the Constitution reflect the will of the people and protect the fundamental principles of governance.
In trying to rectify irregularities, and upholding the principles of equality and non-discrimination the rule of law must be upheld.
Amending the supreme law of the land through statutory instruments at the 11th hour before elections sets a bad precedent and undermines the Constitution.
The amendments should be made judiciously and must have been brought forth ahead of time. - Zimbabwe Coalition on Debt and Development