BY VENERANDA LANGA
PARLIAMENT on Tuesday ratified the African Charter on Democracy and Elections and Governance, which, among other things, is meant to enhance the quality of elections in Africa, promote human rights, strengthen the rule of law and promote political, economic and social governance.
The charter, which was brought for ratification in the National Assembly by Justice minister Ziyambi Ziyambi, also addresses issues relating to unconstitutional changes of governments in Africa, and ensures that those that attempt to remove a constitutionally-elected government are dealt with in terms of the law.
Zimbabwe joins countries like Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Chad, Ethiopia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Lesotho, Malawi, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Sudan, Togo and Zambia to ratify the charter.
Zimbabwe now needs to sign the charter into law.
Ziyambi said the ratification of the charter means that the country must now have representative systems of government with separation of powers between branches, promote democracy, rule of law and basic human rights, ensure democratic rule and constitutional changes of power through free, fair and transparent elections, and respect ethnic cultural and religious diversity.
“The African Charter of Democracy, Elections and Governance was signed by President Emmerson Mnangagwa on March 21, 2018 in Rwanda and the signing was ahead of our harmonised elections which were held on July 31, 2018,” Ziyambi said.
“The signing was so that we enhance the quality of our own elections, among other objectives. The charter binds State parties to promote democracy, rule of law and human rights. It obligates State parties to take necessary measures to promote constitutional transfer of power.
“It also binds State parties to guarantee rights of women, migrants, ethnic minorities, people with disabilities and other vulnerable social groups.”
The Justice minister also said the charter also binds State parties to institutionalise constitutional civilian control over the armed and security forces to ensure consolidation of democracy and constitutional order.
“State parties are also obligated to take legislative and regulatory measures to ensure that those who attempt to remove an elected government are dealt with in accordance with the law. State parties are sanctioned by the Charter to commit to regular holding of transparent, free and fair elections in accordance with the union’s declaration on the principles governing democratic elections in Africa,” he said.
Nkulumane MP Kucaca Phulu said ratification of the charter will enable government to become more transparent in how it conducts elections and enable different stakeholders to know exactly what should happen and when elections are going to take place.
“We hope they do not take another two years before they present their articles of ratification to the relevant forum. It would be nice to hear some assurances from the minister that they will move quickly to ensure that it is ratified and we bring it back to this House for domestication,” Phulu said.
Ziyambi promised to speed up the process to ensure political and legislative reforms in areas of governance and electoral reforms.