from MARCUS MUSHONGA in Harare, Zimbabwe
HARARE, (CAJ News) – THE deadlock between the government and civil society organisations over the holding of by-elections in Zimbabwe remains unresolved and is playing out in the courts.
By-elections have been postponed indefinitely because of the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak early last year.
The High Court Justice Siyabona Musithu earlier this week quizzed lawyers representing President Emmerson Mnangagwa, Health and Child Care Minister, Constantino Chiwenga, and Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) for their alleged bureaucratic stance in not lifting the suspension of by-elections.
This is despite the government easing the lockdown.
Chiwenga, then in his capacity as the acting president, announced the ban, which was challenged in the High Court.
Women’s Academy for Leadership and Political Excellence (WALPE), Election Resource Centre (ERC) and six Harare and Marondera residents namely Ellah Tayengwa, Moud Chinyerere, Agnes Togarepi, Gracious Matsunga, David Gwanzura and Loice Gwangwara lodged the legal challenge last October.
Tendai Biti of Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights, who is also a senior in the opposition Movement for Democratic Change Alliance, filed their application.
Justice Musithu asked why government was averse to holding by-elections and yet other countries such as Tanzania and the United States of America had held polls recently.
The Judge also asked government’s lawyers to give an indication on when the indefinite suspension of by-elections would be lifted.
This was to no avail.
Tawanda Kanengoni and Olivia Zvedi, the lawyers representing Mnangagwa, Chiwenga and ZEC, offered arguments.
Kanengoni argued holding by-elections at a time of the pandemic would curtail effective participation of the electorate. He said ZEC could only conduct by-elections once Mnangagwa issues a proclamation.
Zvedi argued it was prudent for government to suspend by-elections in order to conquer the spread of coronavirus since the risk of a third wave of the pandemic was high.
Zimbabwe has recorded 38 696 cases of COVID-19, including 1 586 deaths.
– CAJ News