A total of 21 residents’ associations and organisations coalescing under the banner Coalition of Residents’ Associations has called on the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) to conduct by-elections for both national assembly and local authority vacancies.
After a number of legislators were recalled by their political parties chiefly the MDC-T, Zec is expected to hold a total of 25 national assembly and 79 local authority by-elections.
In a statement, the Coalition of Resident’s Associations said the country’s representative democracy was now in intensive care because the electorate was being denied their right to choose their representatives.
“As a coalition of residents’ associations, we believe that ZEC is now in a better position to conduct by-elections in hundreds of wards where the councillors were recalled by the Movement for Democratic Change- Tsvangirai in terms of Section 278 (1) of the Constitution of Zimbabwe.
“Legislative authority derives from the people and is exercised in terms of the Constitution (Section 117) by the legislature. All citizens should have equal voice and representation in Parliament.
“A weakened Parliament cannot fully exercise its role of holding agencies of state and government to account in accordance with Section 119 of the Constitution. Local authorities function more effectively and efficiently if they have the full representation of their elected councillors for each ward.
“Several vacancies have arisen in most local authorities following the recalls of councillors. This means that the electorate is being excluded from giving their input through council committees, full councils in direct conflict with the provisions of the Constitution which provide for inclusive development planning,” reads the statement.
The residents’ organization say that the continuous delay in conducting by-elections has been retrogressive at both parliamentary and local authority levels as service delivery has taken a huge blow.
“Zimbabwe’s representative democracy is inadequate without the full complement of elected councillors to lead in the oversight of council’s workers, represent the electorate and make laws on behalf of the ratepayers.
“The continued delay in holding by elections in our local authorities has not only crippled service delivery but it has also severely undermined deliberative democracy with no meaningful debates taking place in council chambers. Our representative democracy is now in intensive care because the electorate is being denied their right to choose their elected representatives.
“In view of these shortcomings, it is necessary and prudent that ZEC does everything in its power to uphold their constitutional mandate and facilitate the holding of by-elections in under the permissible COVID-19 regulations as approved by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and Ministry of Health and Child Care.
“Democracy entails the full participation of the legislature as one of the key pillars of the state. The other pillars being the judiciary and the executive. Therefore, with low representation of the electorate in parliament, even the Constituency Development Fund, which is administered by Members of Parliament will not be utilised. The electorate in the disadvantaged constituencies deserve a fair share of the national resources,” reads the statement.
Political parties have been warned against wantonly recalling of elected members with the residents’ organisations saying there are a lot of factors which should be considered before elected officials are recalled from office.
“As for the recalls themselves we urge political parties to be mindful of section 3(2)(f) of the Constitution which states that: "respect for the people of Zimbabwe from whom the authority to govern is derived" in their zeal to implement the controversial sections 129 and 278 (1) that recalls councillors and MPs. The political party ticket is just but one of many reasons for which citizens elect local representatives.
“From a human rights perspective, citizens anchor all democratic processes, and any government institution derives its mandate from the involvement of the citizens. Therefore, it is urgent that by-elections are held in all affected local authorities where there are vacancies,” reads the statement.