THE United States of (US) embassy in Harare yesterday criticised President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government over continued suspension of by-elections, arguing that elections could be held safely despite the COVID-19 pandemic as has been proven in other African countries.
Government banned elections early last year, citing the COVID-19 outbreak, but critics accuse Mnangagwa of using the pandemic to asphyxiate the MDC Alliance while propping up the smaller MDC-T faction led by Douglas Mwonzora, which is seen as a Zanu PF proxy.
But government officials reacted angrily to the call, and accused the superpower of disrespect and interference in the affairs of a sovereign State.
The US embassy noted that the suspension had left 754 000 people in 26 constituencies with no representation in Parliament, after recalls of the legislators aligned to the Nelson Chamisa-led MDC Alliance party by MDC-T.
The purges also affected over 80 councillors, paralysing operations of some local authorities.
Posting on Twitter yesterday, the US embassy questioned why Zimbabwe continued to suspend by-elections when other countries allowed the running of polls.
“When will the Zimbabwean government resume by-elections? Long-standing parliamentary vacancies have left over 754 000 voters in 26 constituencies without elected representation. Only by-elections will restore these citizens’ rights to representation,” the US embassy said.
“Many countries have held elections despite the pandemic, including Zambia, South Africa, Malawi, and the United States, demonstrating that COVID-19-safe elections are possible. We are confident Zimbabwe can do the same #ZimsSafetoVote #ZimVotesMatter.”
In response, Information secretary Ndavaningi Mangwana said the US consulate was being “disrespectful” to the Zimbabwean government by publicly taking it to task over holding of by-elections.
“Surely, the US embassy knows where the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is located,” Mangwana responded on Twitter.
“Should there be a need for a conversation on this subject, you can easily engage them and get a briefing. These highly inflammatory tweets are as disrespectful as they are unnecessary.”
Zanu PF acting spokesperson Mike Bimha told NewsDay that: “We are not scared of the by-elections. We are a political party and the decision on when to hold the elections lies (with) Zec.
“No political party dares us, because we have become stronger than ever. I am currently at the Zimbabwe International Trade Fair at our party stand, where queues for new members who want to join our party are winding. We have also seen defections of several members from (opposition MDC Alliance leader Nelson) Chamisa’s party to Zanu PF, proving our party to be strong. Therefore, even if the elections are to be held today, we are confident of our victory.”
Government has, however, on several occasions eased lockdown restrictions, in the process allowing the resumption of normal business operations under strict COVID-19 protocols.- NewsDay