Statement by a collective of Residents Associations
Harare- A significant number of residents’ associations and other citizens’ interest organisations are urging the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) to facilitate the holding of byelections to fill the vacancies left by recalled, deceased ward councilors, and Members of Parliament in Zimbabwe’s urban and rural local authorities and constituencies.
Currently, 79 Municipal and 25 House of Assembly by-elections are outstanding. 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.
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.
In Harare, 21 Ward Councillors were recalled, while two other councillors died.
This means that in Harare alone there are 23 vacancies which need to be filled in terms of the law.
Chitungwiza Municipality has five vacancies and one parliamentary vacancy.
This is a common problem in other provinces.
Residents deserve representation through electoral processes.
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 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.
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 Release Date: 26/3/2021, 11:00am councillors and MPs.
The political party ticket is just but one of many reasons for which citizens elect local representatives.
Citizen participation in the affairs of their local authorities is what deepens and strengthens our local government sector as the lowest tier of government in Zimbabwe.
The residents as voters participate in the electoral process through the selection of their Councillors and their MPs who will play the role of policy and law making, representative and oversight over council workers when elected into office.
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.
Statement issued by the following residents organisations and like-minded citizens’ interest organisations.
Bulawayo Progressive Residents Association Chitungwiza Residents’ Trust
Combined Harare Residents’ Association
Conscious Development and Empowerment Trust Community
Tolerance Reconciliation and Development Greater Hwange
Residents Trust Gutu Residents’ Trust Gweru Residents Forum
Harare Residents’ Trust, Kariba Incorporated Area Residents’ and
Ratepayers Association Local Governance Trust United Chiredzi and
Ratepayers Association Macheke Citizens and Development Trust
Masvingo Media Centre Group Masvingo Residents Forum Masvingo
United Residents and Ratepayers Alliance Mutare Residents and
Ratepayers Association United Mutare Residents and Ratepayers Trust