The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) has defended its decision to suspend electoral activities without consulting stakeholders.
ZEC chief elections officer Utoile Silaigwana on Tuesday told NewsDay that the commission acted within the parameters of an emergency health situation. He said:
The ZEC acted within the parameters of an emergency health crisis, where it had to look at the safety of the voter, election observers and others. Under normal situations, we could have done such (consultations etc).
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How do we consult stakeholders without a position? It is for this reason that we are working on a policy that we will take to the stakeholders on how to conduct elections during the COVID-19 period.
Meanwhile, the Zimbabwe Elections Support Network (ZESN), an elections watchdog, said ZEC’s decision to suspend elections to ostensibly “avoid violating lockdown measures currently in place” is unconstitutional. ZESN said in a statement:
In the absence of these consultations, ZEC could at least have considered postponing, rather than suspending electoral activities.
But even postponement cannot be indefinite. ZESN notes that the suspension of electoral activities was not done in terms of the law.
Section 132 allows ZEC to change dates but does not mandate ZEC to change without giving notice of its decision in the Gazette and in the media and beyond 90 days.
ZEC should note that any postponement beyond 90 days from the date a vacancy arises as provided for in section 158(3) of the Constitution is potentially illegal and unconstitutional.