Rights Commission adds voice to anti-Chiwenga by elections ban

Staff Writer

THE Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission (ZHRC) has called on the government to respect people’s political rights by making sure that the desire to contain the spread of Covid19 pandemic does not infringe democratic rights through suspension of elections.

The ZHRC comments is an additional voice to the previous week’s  political parties and human rights organisations criticism of  Vice President and Health Minister ,Constantino Chiwenga’s directive barring the conducting of elections “for the duration of the period of declaration of COVID-19 as a formidable epidemic disease”.

The rights commission accused the government of failing to respect pluralism, broadmindedness and tolerance in coming up with the recent directive.

“Government authorities and structures must exercise separation of powers, consultative engagements and inclusion in serious decision making processes. Pandemics should not be used as an opportunity for States to unleash absolute Executive powers.

“Such powers should be exercised fairly and reasonably and should avoid taking shortcuts which in the long run may tend to persist and become permanent features eroding or diminishing democratic principles and values,” ZHRC said.

The Right Authority urged the Zimbabwe Elections Commission to continue exercising its independence and autonomy with regards to the electoral processes as per its Constitutional mandate.

It also urged citizens to desist from docility saying they ,”should , when necessary, peacefully claim their Constitutional rights and take duty bearers to account. They should also always adhere to Government’s Safety guidelines especially during pandemics, such as the COVID-19.”

The Commission drew the attention of the government to other jurisdictions such as Malawi which conducted its Presidential elections on the 23rd of June 2020, when the pandemic was still posing serious threats.

Tanzania (28 October 2020, General elections) and South Africa, which recorded higher Confirmed COVID-19 cases, has scheduled to proceed with their electoral processes during this same COVID-19 period.

The ZHRC  noted that the COVID-19 active cases have significantly declined and no longer as alarming as in other countries in the region making   the indefinite suspension of by-elections a contradiction   against principles of democracy and contradicts the situation on the ground.

The rationale of blocking elections at a time when schools, churches among other populous places are being open was also questioned.

“The pronouncement that elections be suspended appears contradictory and selective as other electoral processes were held and continue to take place, for instance, the ruling party ZANU- PF, proceeded with its Primary elections in Kwekwe on the 4th of October 2020 and preparations are being made for the holding of District Coordinating Committees (DCC) elections countrywide,” ZHRC added.


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