‘Recall law aiding death of democracy’

The United States-based international organisation observed Zimbabwe’s August 2023 harmonised elections and issued a scathing report on the polls which were condemned by several observer missions.

The constitutional provisions which allow legislators and councillors to be recalled should be revisited as they are aiding the death of democracy in Zimbabwe, The Carter Center has said.

The United States-based international organisation observed Zimbabwe’s August 2023 harmonised elections and issued a scathing report on the polls which were condemned by several observer missions.

The Carter Center is a non-governmental organisation that helps to improve lives by resolving conflicts; advancing democracy and preventing diseases.

The international election observation mission publicly released its preliminary statement of findings and conclusions on the electoral process of August 23 last year.

“After election day, the mission continued to observe tabulation, announcement of results, and the postelection environment.

“LTOs [long-term observers] remained in their assigned areas and continued to follow developments, including activities of Zec provincial commissions, political parties/candidates, CSOs, and media.

Although the initial schedule provided for the continued deployment of LTOs to observe the post-election environment for a few weeks, the observers’ stay in Zimbabwe was cut short when the Foreign Affairs ministry refused to extend visas.”

The core team left Zimbabwe on September 4, 2023, before the entire electoral process had been completed.

“Nevertheless, the Carter Center observer mission continued to follow the final stages of the election processes, such as election dispute resolution, as well as the recalls of elected CCC [Citizens Coalition for Change] parliamentarians and councillors and the subsequent by-elections in November and December.

The observer mission conducted a follow-up visit to present its key findings and conclusions to government representatives and other stakeholders in November last year but continued to experience challenges in accessing representatives of the relevant State institutions, including Zec officials.

However, in its final report published on Monday this week, the Carter Center revealed that sections 129 and 278, which outline grounds for the termination of elected officials, must be amended to incorporate stronger safeguards against arbitrary recalls.

“Such reforms are essential to upholding the principles of democratic governance and ensuring that elected representatives remain accountable to their constituents.

“In a democracy, the power to recall a representative from public office is an important mechanism to ensure that elected officials remain accountable to their constituents.”

“Once elected to office, representatives must, therefore, be accountable to citizens as well as to their political parties. The centre recommends that sections 129 and 278 of the Zimbabwe Constitution, which outline various circumstances for the termination of an MP, senator or local authority councillor, should be revised to include more safeguards to ensure they are not open to recalls.”

The recalls, initiated by Sengezo Tshabangu under the guise of being the interim secretary-general of CCC party, targeted elected officials who were allegedly no longer deemed members of the party.

Without consultation or due process, a total of 28 CCC MPs, 14 senators and 69 councilors were stripped of their positions, triggering a bitter interparty dispute that spilled to the courts.

“Despite legal challenges, three rounds of recalls led to vacant seats in the National Assembly and local government, prompting by-elections on November 11, December 9, 2023 and Febuary 3, 2024,” the centre said.

However, the CCC’s decision not to participate in the by-elections was met with defiance from the recalled MPs who sought to stand as CCC candidates. The High Court intervened, barring their re-contestation.

 “The by-elections had a significantly lower voter turnout compared with the August general elections and, considering the number of eligible voters in the respective areas, indicate erosion of the trust and confidence in the electoral process, political disillusionment, and voter apathy,” the organisation added (sic).

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