SALO Public Dialogue on Zimbabwe – 5 April 2022

The Southern African Liaison Office (SALO), hosted a public multi-stakeholder dialogue on the recent March 2022 by-elections and expectations for the 2023 General Elections.

This dialogue discussed the environment ahead of the 26th of March by-elections, the lessons that can be drawn from the by-elections, the significance of the results, and what can be expected in the lead up to the 2023 general election. With less than 18 months to the 2023 general election, what should be prioritised to ensure a free and fair election?  

On 26 March 2022, Zimbabwe held parliamentary and local government by-elections after 28 National Assembly seats and 122 Local Municipal seats were left vacant. The by-elections were necessitated by the deaths, and recalling, of several parliamentarians and councillors by the MDC-T led by Douglas Mwonzora. 

In the run-up to the by-elections, Nelson Chamisa’s MDC faced a court challenge that resulted in the formation of a breakaway party, the Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC), 3 months before the by-elections. The elections were seen as a dry run towards the upcoming general elections in 2023 and a test for the ruling ZANU-PF. The independence of the Zimbabwean Electoral Commission (ZEC) was brought into question as it was accused of interfering with the voter’s roll in favour of ZANU-PF, while the government was accused of intimidation and repression using the police force and state media coverage in its favour. During the 2 months of active campaigning, opposition party rallies were disrupted, supporters were arrested and reports of violence were rampant. 

Nelson Chamisa’s CCC won 19 of the 28 National Assembly seats, and ZANU-PF gained control of 9, winning 2 seats from the opposition. The CCC won 75 of the 122 seats in the local municipalities, giving it overall majority support in the by-elections.