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Tuesday, June 18, 2024
HomeNewsIt’s Time To Put An End To Recalls

It’s Time To Put An End To Recalls

Young people queue in to cast their ballots during the August 23, 2023 elections in Harare, Zimbabwe (Pic by Lovejoy Mutongwiza)

In recent years, Zimbabwe has witnessed a series of political recalls that have sparked intense debate about their impact on the nation’s democratic space.

These recalls, predominantly targeting opposition lawmakers, have far-reaching implications, stretching from the political arena to economic stability and social cohesion.

In recent years, Zimbabwe has witnessed a series of political recalls that have sparked intense debate about their impact on the nation’s democratic space.
These recalls, predominantly targeting opposition lawmakers, have far-reaching implications, stretching from the political arena to economic stability and social cohesion.

In terms of section 129(1)(k) of the Constitution, legislators can be recalled from Parliament through a letter written by a political party to the Speaker of the National Assembly.

However, the concept of recalls has turned into the spotlight in Zimbabwe, presenting a paradoxical act that both empowers and undermines the will of the people.
The trend of recalling elected officials in Zimbabwe has escalated, with significant episodes observed since the 2018 general elections.

One of the most notable cases involved the Movement for Democratic Change Alliance (MDC-A), where over 30 MPs and numerous councilors were recalled by a faction of their own party.

These recalls were justified on grounds of alleged misconduct or alignment with rival factions, yet many critics argue that they are politically motivated moves aimed at consolidating power.

Notably, the recall of legislators from the Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) by the interim secretary-general, Sengezo Tshabangu, following the 2023 harmonized election, has been a flashpoint in the debate over the proper use of recalls.

Recalls in Zimbabwe have become a strategic move on the political chessboard, ostensibly to maintain party discipline and coherence. However, critics argue that this mechanism has been weaponized to stifle dissent and consolidate power.

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Politically, the recalls undermine the democratic process by destabilizing opposition parties and eroding public trust in electoral systems.

When elected representatives are removed from office through mechanisms perceived as partisan, it not only disenfranchises voters but also weakens legislative oversight and opposition capacity.

This scenario was vividly illustrated in the recalls of MDC-A members, which effectively weakened the primary opposition party in the Zimbabwean Parliament, allowing the ruling ZANU-PF to consolidate its dominance.

Economically, the instability wrought by frequent recalls and by-elections can deter investment and disrupt long-term planning. Investors seek predictable environments, and the current political volatility sends ripples of uncertainty through the markets. The economic cost of conducting by-elections also weighs heavily on a country grappling with fiscal constraints.

The recalls exacerbate divisions within communities. Electorates who feel their democratic choice has been invalidated may become disillusioned, leading to apathy and reduced political participation.

This disenfranchisement can fuel social unrest, as seen in the protests and public outcry following numerous recalls.

Moreover, the polarization of political factions can trickle down to local communities, fostering a climate of mistrust and hostility.

The Zimbabwe Election Support Network (ZESN) has called for a revision of the recall law, advocating for a process led by citizens rather than political parties. Their position paper underscores the need for a high-threshold, citizen-led recall process that aligns with democratic principles and ensures accountability.

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ZESN is of the view that the law needs to be amended to make it mandatory for the electorate to be involved in the recall of its elected representatives.

“A high-threshold citizen-led recall process for Zimbabwe is more ideal…This will enable citizens to maintain the right of recall as a tool of direct democracy and reinforcement of representative democracy in a context where politicians largely lack accountability and programmatic delivery,” said ZESN.

The African Charter on Democracy, Elections, and Governance (ACDEG) advocates for democratic principles and institutions, popular participation, and good governance.

It serves as a yardstick against which democratic practices can be measured. While it does not explicitly address recalls, its emphasis on popular participation and representation suggests that any recall mechanism should be rooted in the will of the people, not just the political elite.

Yet, the recent spate of recalls in Zimbabwe’s political theatre raises questions about their alignment with these principles.

The ACDEG and ZESN’s perspectives offer a roadmap for recalibrating the recall process to ensure it serves the people’s interests rather than political machinations.
Ensuring that recall procedures are transparent, fair, and free from political manipulation is essential for the nation’s democratic resilience and socio-economic development.

The future of Zimbabwe’s democracy may well hinge on how this delicate balance is achieved.

However, the concept of recalls has turned into the spotlight in Zimbabwe, presenting a paradoxical act that both empowers and undermines the will of the people.

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Written by

Multi-award winning journalist/photojournalist with keen interests in politics, youth, child rights, women and development issues. Follow Lovejoy On Twitter @L_JayMut

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