THE Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) has come up with a policy that will ensure the country resumes electoral processes even under the shadow of the Covid-19 pandemic, which previously affected the holding of political activities for almost two years.
Under the Covid-19 policy, ZEC officers have been trained to preside over the polls in strict adherence to World Health Organisation (WHO) protocols, to protect not only themselves but also the voters.
In March last year, electoral activities were suspended in response to the Covid-19 pandemic which has claimed more than a thousand lives in Zimbabwe and also wreaked livelihoods.
Elections were suspended as part of a cocktail of measures to beat back caseloads of the pandemic that also forced the Government to impose lockdowns.
However, with the cloud seemingly clearing, and on the back of a nationwide vaccination programme, ZEC chairperson Justice Priscilla Chigumba yesterday told an inter-party liaison workshop meeting in Harare that the commission is ready to conduct by-elections using the Covid-19 policy.
“For today’s meeting, we have a demonstration of polling station procedures for the sole reason of showing the political parties that we do have a Covid-19 policy, which we have put in place. We have trained our presiding officers in conducting elections using our Covid-19 policy.
“We have several scenarios, we did demonstrations, they were allowed to ask questions. As a commission, we are ready to conduct by-elections and all elections and electoral processes using our Covid-19 policy which means Covid-19 compliant electoral processes.
“We are not only on complying with Covid-19 policies for registered voters, we are also looking at our presiding officers — those that we send on the ground — to ensure that they have Personal Protective Equipment (PPEs), sanitisers and masks to ensure they are also safe and that they conduct their duties in a way that is compliant with Covid-19 regulations,” said Justice Chigumba.
Zimbabwe is warming up to the by-elections that President Mnangagwa hinted will be held in the first quarter of next year, with harmonised elections set for 2023.
As of October 22, the country had a total of 133 elective by-elections at National Assembly and local authority levels, most of which were necessitated by recalls in the MDC, deaths and expulsions.
Justice Chigumba added that Treasury has availed enough funds for the by-elections.
“We are prepared. We have received sufficient funding from the Treasury to do all our procurement, ballot papers, ink, and what we are looking at right now is sufficient procurement of sanitisers, masks among others.
“We are also going to conduct training. We will shortly be seconding civil servants, Public Service Commission. We will send people for training not only for by-elections but polling station marking and pre-delimitation exercise,” she said.
At the workshop, Zanu PF was represented by the party’s Deputy Secretary for Legal Affairs Fortune Chasi, MDC-T by Ms Ruth Labode, MDC-A by Mr Ian Makone and Mr Jacob Mafume, while Mr Themba Mliswa attended as an independent candidate, with Justice Chigumba expressing satisfaction with the engagement.
“I am happy with the outcome. We had a robust debate, robust questions, and answers, so I am very happy. It is our second multi-party liaison meeting with political players in Parliament. I am hopeful that going forward we will continue inviting them, we will continue to talk to them and discuss with them. We will continue to debate issues around the application of the electoral topical issues,” said Justice Chigumba.
Such interactive platforms will nurture an environment of tolerance, moving away from needless polarisation, she said.
Meanwhile, the proclamation of provisional dates for by-elections comes as a massive blow to MDC-T leader Douglas Mwonzora who had begged President Mnangagwa to consider scrapping pending by-elections when the two met under controversial circumstances at State House on June 11.
Mnangagwa met Mwonzora while in the company of Vice-President Constantino Chiwenga.
The MDC-T leader revealed after the meeting, described by his lieutenants as secretive, that he had tabled a set of “damands” to the Zanu PF leaders, but flatly refused to disclose them, saying he was waiting for the president’s written response.
This publication, however, obtained a copy of the four-page document Mwonzora gave Mnangangwa. The suspension of by-elections, which if done, would give Mwonzora an edge over Nelson Chamisa’s MDC Alliance in the fight for recognition as the main opposition party in Zimbabwe.
The MDC-T leader justified the proposal to suspend by-elections, saying it would give Zimbabweans time to “find each other”.
“While Zimbabweans are talking and finding each other in this serious manner it seems unnecessary to introduce something divisive as by-elections,” he said in the statement.
“It is, therefore , suggested that while discussions are going on regarding aforementioned issues, by-elections be suspended.
“In order to avoid prejudice to the electorate, it is suggested that an arrangement be made for parties to make replacements of vacancies in their areas of control as guided by law.”
Following a controversial Supreme Court ruling last year, MDC-T has recalled dozens of MDC Alliance legislators and councillors amid accusations that it is aiding Mnangagwa’s ambitions to create a one-party state.
Mwonzora denies allegations that he is a Zanu PF puppet, but he has indicated his eagerness to work with the ruling party while pushing out Chamisa’s group.
In his submissions to Mnangagwa, he also proposed a new dialogue platform between MDC-T and Zanu PF to be known as the Parliamentary Dialogue Forum (PDF).
He said PDF would be made up of five Zanu PF legislators, five MDC-T legislators and two chiefs. The platform would have Zanu PF and MDC-T principals while excluding MDC Alliance.
According to the document, the PDF would have its own secretariat where Zanu PF and the MDC-T will second officials that would be on a full salary.
“The two political parties to select two salaried and specific coordinators each, who sit in the PDF,” reads the document.
Mwonzora assured Mnangagwa that there would be no further talk of the 2018 general elections as that was water under the bridge as concluded by the Constitutional Court.
“The Constitutional Court of Zimbabwe made a definitive judgement, which in the party’s view settled the legitimacy question. To the MDC-T party the legitimacy is a settled issue,” he wrote.
– Herald/The Standard