Political analysts yesterday castigated government for double standards after it banned by-elections citing COVID-19 regulations, but has allowed crowd-puller events such as the Zimbabwe International Trade Fair (ZITF) and the Harare Agricultural Show to go ahead.
Analysts told NewsDay that the failure by President Emmerson Mnangagwa to call for by-elections showed that he feared that his ruling Zanu-PF party or its proxies could lose.
More than 40 MPs and 80 councillors aligned to the Nelson Chamisa-led MDC Alliance from across the country were recalled by the MDC-T led by Douglas Mwonzora.
By-elections have not been held despite the constitutional provision that they must be conducted 90 days after a seat falls vacant.
International organisations, embassies, and civic organisations have been calling for the lifting of the ban on by-elections, after several countries including neighbours Zambia, and Mawali successfully held polls in the COVID-19 environment.
A few days ago, the United States embassy called on Mnangagwa’s government to lift the ban on by-elections, arguing that elections could be held safely despite the COVID-19 pandemic.
Vivid Gwede, a political analyst, said: “The continued postponement of by-elections while everything else is going ahead, including the just ended ZITF, is bound to raise genuine questions about the reasons for that decision.
“We have already seen that other countries in Sadc have successfully held elections during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“This means that Zimbabwe can also easily hold by-elections to fill the numerous vacant seats in Parliament and local government, and ensure adequate representation of the affected constituents across the country.”
Another political analyst Kudakwashe Munemo said: “Continued ban of by-elections is selective application of the law.
“It is use of the COVID-19 pandemic as a scapegoat not to hold elections, perhaps in fear of defeat given that most recalls happened in the urban areas where the ruling party is not popular.” Rashweat Mukundu, another political analyst, concurred: “The banning of by-elections is a political decision, but above all an indication of the unpreparedness and fear by Zanu-PF to face Nelson Chamisa’s MDC Alliance. It’s a mockery of our democracy.”
Human rights activist Ashton Bumhira accused Mnangagwa’s government of weaponising COVID-19 in order to achieve objectives beyond the public health concerns.
“They are actually using the public health restrictions to clamp down on political opposition, silence critics, contain the restive population and entrench power and control over institutions such as the Legislature, the Judiciary and the media,” he said.
“So, it is not only about the by-elections, but about entrenching power and closing the democratic space in Zimbabwe.”
Zanu-PF is conducting its own internal polls, with district elections held at the weekend with those for provincial executives to follow.