The Zimbabwe Election Support Network (ZSN) an independent election watchdog has said the discord between the Health ministry and Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) over pending by-elections is worrisome.
ZEC chairperson Justice Priscilla Chigumba told diplomats two weeks ago that the electoral body was ready to conduct by-elections, and was waiting for Vice-President and Health minister Constantino Chiwenga to lift his statutory instrument suspending the polls.
Chiwenga’s deputy John Mangwiro, however, last week said the ministry had nothing to do with elections. In a statement on Tuesday, ZESN said:
Worryingly, this discord is disturbing and a sure sign of policy inconsistency and confusion on who authorises or suspends the holding of by-elections. In turn, this affects the credibility of elections and is contrary to promoting democracy and relevant human rights.
The continued suspension of by-elections is non-compliant to regional and international instruments that govern the conduct of democratic elections that Zimbabwe is a signatory to.
There are 28 vacancies in Parliament and 105 in local government following the recall of MDC Alliance legislators and councillors by Douglas Mwonzora’s MDC-T.
Last year, Chiwenga suspended by-elections indefinitely citing the prevalence of the coronavirus. They remain suspended.
ZESN says the continued suspension of by-elections is not justified when large public gatherings are being allowed, citing a church gathering of the African Apostolic Church on October 23 in Harare South which attracted over 16 000 congregants.
Last week, Mnangagwa addressed of thousands ZANU PF supporters in Mwenezi, Masvingo province, on the anti-sanctions day as the number of oversubscribed political party gatherings continue to surge.
Neighbouring South Africa, which has the highest COVID-19 deaths in Africa, held municipal elections on Monday. A number of countries have also held elections under the COVID-19 pandemic.