Tongues are being rolled overtime as Zimbabweans are being fed propaganda over the suspension of by elections on December. The Vice President Dr comrade Constantino Gueveya Chiwenga, who is also the Health Minister, on Friday 2nd October 2020 suspended all by-elections the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) had scheduled for 5 December citing the Covid-19 pandemic. In the onset of COVID 19 ZEC chairperson, Justice Priscilla Chigumba following the guidelines of the World Health Organisation announced that by-elections were to be conducted in December 2020. Justice Chigumba was like any other person in the world believing that by December COVID will be history.
After carefully studied the situation in the world and the ugly resurgent of the virus in several countries
Dr Chiwenga as the Health Minister announced that all by-elections had been suspended.
"It is hereby notified by the Minister of Health in terms of section 68 of the Public Health Act (Chapter 15:17) made the following regulations – 1).
"These regulations maybe cited as the Public Health (Covid-19 Prevention, Containment and Treatment (Amendment) Regulation pursuant to subsection (2), the holding of any by-election to fill a casual vacancy in Parliament or in local authority is for the duration of the period of the declaration of Covid-19 as a formidable epidemic disease, suspended, and if such vacancy occurred while such declaration is in force, no part of the period from the date of such vacancy to the date of the end of declaration shall be counted for the purpose of section (158 (3) of the Constitution," Statutory Instrument 225A of 2020 reads.
While Article 68 reads
"Regulations regarding formidable epidemic diseases and conditions or events of public health concern
(1) Subject to the provisions of this Act, in the case of the occurrence or threatened outbreak of any formidable epidemic disease, condition or event of public health concern, the Minister may make regulations as to all or any of the following matters, namely-
(a) the imposition and enforcement of quarantine and the regulation and restriction of public traffic and of the movements of persons;
(c) the closing o f churches and Sunday schools and restriction o f gatherings or meetings for the purpose of public worship;
(d) the regulation or restriction or, where deemed necessary, the closing of any place or places of public entertainment, recreation or amusement, or where intoxicating liquor is sold by retail, and the regulation or restriction, or, w·here deemed necessary, the prohibition, of the convening, holding or attending of entertainments, assemblies, meetings or other public gatherings;
(e) the prevention and remedying of overcrowding or the keeping of any dwelling or other building or the contents thereof in a state of sanitation posing or likely to pose a public health risk;
(f) the medical examination of persons who are suspected of being infected with, or who may have recently been e"A'Posed to the infection of, such disease, and of persons about to depart from any infected area, and the disinfection of their baggage and personal effects, and the detention of such persons until they have after such examination been certified to be free from any infectious disease and tmtil their baggage and personal effects have been disinfected;
(g) the keeping under medical observation or sun,eillance, or the removal, detention and isolation ofpersons who may have recently been exposed to the infection of,
"(1) Subject to the provisions of this Act, in the case of the occurrence or threatened outbreak of any formidable epidemic disease, condition or event of public health concern, the Minister may make regulations as to all or any of the following matters, namely"
The minister is given a mandate to make regulations as to any of the matters which tickles the roots of the Public Health. This is a mandate which does mot call the minister to approach parliament. All he needs to satisfy himself is that the pandemic has been declared a national disaster. COVID 19 was declared as such and it trend signalled a cruel come back which could be a heavy strain on our health system. The minister has the burden of keeping the nation safe from any health hazard on his shoulders.
When making a decision the minister will consider the best interest of the nation ahead of any other issues which are not life threatening. So the Public Health Act empowers him to shield the nation from the arrows and pains of any ravaging pandemic.
So the Vice president was guided by Part II OF THE PUBLIC HEALTH ACT which direct the ADMINISTRATION OF THE PuBLIC HEALTH SYSTEM Sub-Part A: "National health system administration
3 Ministry Responsible for public health
(1) The Ministry shall be under the control of the Minister.
(2) The functions of the Ministry shall, subject to this Act be-
(a) to protect promote, improve and maintain the health of the population; and
(b) to detennine the policies and measures necessary to protect, promote, improve and maintain the health and well-being of the population; and—————-
(d) to equitably prioritise and allocate resources to the health services that the State can provide; and
(e) to enhance collaboration among state and non-state actors and communities; and
(f) to inform educate and empower the population about health issues; and
(g) to take measures for the prevention, limitation or suppression of infectious,
communicable and non-communicable diseases within Zimbabwe; and
(h) to advise and assist local authorities in regard to matters affecting public health; —-"
The decision taken was lawful and not a decision made politically. It is the detractors who are now politicising a health matter.
The opposition parties and some other civic organisations like the Elections Resource Centre (ERC) said the suspension affected the independence of (ZEC) The detractors are not looking at the aim of suspension. By its nature suspension means just to pause or wait. It is different from cancelling. By elections are simple set aside pending the sustainability and control of the COVID 19 pandemic.
The allegations being put against ZANU PF are laughable and naughty. These allegations are coming from the people who have not looked at this case on the round.
A suggestion that ZANU PF is afraid of by elections hence the suspension is a joke in itself. To start with ZANU PF does not fear elections. It fought for elections and it takes its pride in holding successful elections. In case one might not know it is ZANU PF which introduced the system of international observers. ZANU PF has been winning elections for the past forty years and as such elections are a pleasure to ZANU PF.
The second point is that MDC in all its letters like MDC A MDC T or MDC N or B or S is at its worst since its formation and splitting sessions. It is plucking its strength off and destroying itself. It has no time to concentrate on elections. The reality is that MDC leadership is busy fighting for their survival with Khupe politicking using emotions not her head.
The suspension of these elections is actually a blessing in disguise for the MDCs. Chamisa has lost his clout he no longer sleeps. On eye is looking at Mwonzora Kuphe Komichi while the eye is looking at Biti who has made his intentions to take over very clear and Job who is behaving like a mad man chasing nothing.
If there was any man relived with this suspension is Chamisa.
So the narrative that democracy has been suspended is a shallow narrow reasoning. Suspending elections does not mean suspending democracy. Democracy is not only measured by elections. Elections survive in a democracy but democracy in themselves.
The suspension of the by elections has been fone lawfully and with compassion.
Again it was not ZANU PF which suspended the elections bu the minister of health. The nation must applaud him for taking such a bold move. While elections are suspended they have not been banned. To that end the ruling Zanu PF is continuing with primary elections to choose candidates to fill vacant parliamentary and local government seats despite the suspension of by-elections that were set for December 5 by Vice-President Constantino Chiwenga. The reason is because ZANU PF is not shy of elections. So it has to be always prepared.
Surprisingly MDC is only vilifying the Vice President. When they lose elections the will not point to their stupid attitude the will blame ZANU PF. Becoming professional complainers does not win elections.
What should be known is that VP Chiwenga only ordered that holding by-elections will remain suspended "for the duration of the period of declaration of Covid-19 as a formidable epidemic disease". This suspension simply means put your houses on order.
So the narrative that this suspension is illegal is simply nonsense and immaturity.
VP Chiwenga doubles up as Health and Child Care minister, and his decision to suspend electoral processes, citing Covid-19 is largely influenced more by science not by politics.
So the allegation that ZANU PF is using COVID 19 to stifle democracy is the work of those empty heads seeking to tarnish the good name of zimbabwe. ZANU PF has a majority in parliament so these by elections do not benefit ZANU PF. Furthermore the opposition is disintegrating into smoke and thus less prepared to participate in any elections b
VP Chiwenga's suspension is not part of efforts to close the democratic space as being said by the opposition.
The suspension of by-elections by VP Chiwenga was legal and very constitutional. It puts people's lives first and indeed he must be applauded for such a bold move.
Looking at the case on the round the Act mandates the minister to Act and decide alone without calling parliament.
"Power to govern is derived from the people through constitutional means and the constitution provides for how people must be governed. So the actions of the VP are perfectly in-order.
Douglas Coltart, a human rights lawyer, said Chiwenga's ban delivered through a statutory instrument cannot withstand legal scrutiny.
"Firstly, it effectively suspends section 158 sub-section 3 of the constitution, which stipulates the time within which by-elections need to be conducted.
"A statutory instrument has no power to suspend a constitution," Coltart said.
"The minister of Health has no authority to determine the conduct of elections.
"That is determined by the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) and the Electoral Act, which is administered by the Justice minister, not the Health minister.
"So he has no power to do what he has done."
Zec last month said by-elections to replace over 30 MDC Alliance legislators and over 100 councillors controversially recalled by the rival MDC-T would be held on December 5.
So the submissions by Coltsrt are wrong biased and embarrassing. Chiwenga did not seek to control how elections are done. He did not seek to interfere with ZEC. He simply did his duty to protect the people of Zimbabwe. This he is mandated by the Act and the constitution.
The decision is supported by facts and it is very rational compassionate and human centred. The decision by cde Chiwenga
is rational and very proportionate to the dangers posed by Covid-19 as many countries have not been able to hold Covid-19-compliant elections." The decision is valid and powered by law.
The problem with the opposition and most Civic societies is that they are busy looking for anything which can trigger a crisis. They are looking for an elephant in the house.
These are desperate times they need desperate measures.