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Electoral reforms must precede by-elections

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IT has been 11 months since by-elections were suspended under Statutory Instrument 225a of 2020.

The Executive suspended the elections taking away the independence of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec).

Despite Zec having developed the COVID-19 policy on electoral activities with clear guidelines on how by-elections and other electoral activities would be conducted under COVID19, by-elections have remained illegally suspended.

By-elections are a litmus test to Zec’s preparedness for the 2023 harmonised elections.

Responsible authorities must ensure that when by-elections are held, they are conducted in a transparent, accountable and credible manner that boosts the confidence of electoral stakeholders.

Currently, COVID-19 is not the only pandemic affecting the delivery of credible elections.

The failure to adhere to constitutional principles that are foundational to credible elections is another pandemic that is threatening democratic principles.

It is worrisome that some citizens are currently unrepresented in Parliament and local authorities.

Section 1 of the Constitution states that Zimbabwe is a unitary, democratic and sovereign republic and is bound by principles of good governance which include free, fair and regular elections according to section 2(b)(ii).

The Election Resource Centre, therefore, calls upon President Emmerson Mnangagwa to carry out his mandate of proclaiming by-elections since there is no court order setting aside the elections. Holding of by-elections must be preceded by the implementation of electoral reforms as the holding of by-elections without reforms poses a threat to the credibility and acceptability of electoral outcomes. –Election Resource Centre Zimbabwe

Drying up of wetlands a threat to food security

CLIMATE change has caused a lot of environmental changes among them is the drying up of wetlands which has led to acute food insecurity in some parts of Lupane district which heavily rely upon agricultural produce for food security.

A farmer at Zinapi Irrigation Scheme in Tshongokwe ward, Nomazulu Mnguni, bemoans the drying up of the Zinapi stream whose source was a wetland, saying the development has had ramifications on farming in the area as the reservoir that used to supply water for irrigation can no longer hold water long enough, thereby forcing the community to only engage in seasonal cropping as opposed to perennial cropping which they had been accustomed to in years gone by.

Some years back, they used to plant crops throughout the year, but since the drying up of the swamp that used to supply water to Zinapi Dam, it has become so difficult for them and they now have to be content with planting only during the rainy season. They are now getting used to foregoing winter cropping because of the persistent water challenges.

Felix Ndlovu of Shabula village says the drying up of the Shabula River has led to the drying up of Shabula Dam, which was critical for the provision of drinking water for livestock, among other uses.

They now have to travel a long distance to get water for their livestock as the local boreholes produce too little water to cater for all their needs. Since the boreholes are overwhelmed by domestic consumption, cattle have to be driven to distant places in order to find water for them.

A retired veterinary official says due to inadequate water, the district has seen an alarming number of cattle succumbing to drought in the past two years and this has contributed to food shortages due to a dearth of draught power in the absence of livestock.

The drying up of wetlands due to climate change has resulted in erratic rains and prolonged droughts, leading to high temperatures.

The Kusile Rural District Council is seized with the matter and is particularly worried about the drying up of wetlands, which has plunged the district into food insecurity.

The wetlands were the key water sources for irrigation schemes which were contributing much to food security.

Parliament should come up with policies that address climate change so as to mitigate its effects and replenish the drying wetlands.

The Zinapi, Shabula and Tshongokwe wetlands have been the major sources of water for irrigation schemes that were central to the production of food throughout the year.

These developments have been harsh on the district and have necessitated the intervention of relief organisations but a lot still needs to be done to cushion the public from droughts. –Community Podium

Authorities must comply with the electoral law

A TRACKING report compiled by the Zimbabwe Election Support Network (Zesn) covers the period January to July 2021.

It seeks to highlight developments in the electoral environment, whether positive or negative, that have occurred during the period under consideration.

Following the harmonised 2018 polls, Zesn compiled a compendium of recommendations from the different election observer missions that observed those elections.

It thereafter lodged a parliamentary petition that was duly embraced and considered by the Parliament of Zimbabwe.

The petition sought to implore Parliament to address a number of administrative, legal and political reform concerns in the electoral landscape of Zimbabwe, from the pre-election, the election to the post-election period.

These included, among others, the inclusivity of the electoral process, the roles of the various electoral actors and others.

Pursuant to the petition, Zesn drafted and submitted to Parliament a Comprehensive Electoral Amendment Bill that would form the basis of electoral reform discourse in Zimbabwe.

The draft Bill was duly received by Parliament through the Committee on Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs for its consideration.

The Bill is a useful resource for advocacy around electoral reform for stakeholders across the board, from civil society to Members of Parliament and relevant public institutions.

The petition by Zesn synthesised the legal, political and administrative issues for reform in Zimbabwe.

These ranged from legal issues, electoral environment issues, through to media and administrative issues, among a host of other issues.

If addressed, these would contribute immensely to making Zimbabwe’s future polls more credible and less likely to have contested results.

Zimbabwe has had contested poll outcomes since the turn of the century, with a resultant polarised political environment.

Zesn continues with its advocacy efforts towards electoral reform.

These revolve around the entire spectrum of electoral issues including the electoral environment, the independence of the electoral management body, voter education, and the political environment, among others.

In this regard, Zesn continues to engage the relevant stakeholders, including Parliament, the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission, along other constitutional Chapter 12 commissions, political parties, the public and civil society organisations.

The report tracks developments in the electoral field within the context of the COVID-19 pandemic which has affected all countries globally.

While some countries have adapted to conducting electoral activities under the pandemic, Zimbabwe has been selective.

Consequent to the pandemic, by-elections due have not been held as per the constitutional dictates.

The pandemic has been given as the basis for the failure to comply with the electoral law.

At the same time, it is apparent that some gatherings have been taking place throughout the lockdown, raising questions about the sincerity of the authorities.

The report takes a thematic approach to the issues covered — the legal developments, women’s political participation, youth and media issues. –Zimbabwe Election Support Network

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