BY BLESSED MHLANGA
Elections watchdog Zimbabwe Election Support Network (Zesn) has called on government and the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) to draw lessons from the just-ended Zambian elections on how to conduct polls during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Zambia’s elections resulted in opposition leader Hakainde Hichilema’s United Party for National Development (UNDP)’s electoral victory over the repressive President Edgar Lungu’s Patriotic Front (PF).
In a statement yesterday, Zesn said Zimbabwe could also hold elections which were postponed indefinitely since last year by the minister of Health, Vice-President Constantino Chiwenga citing COVID-19 fears, and leaving 119 Parliamentary and council seats vacant.
“Some of the lessons for consideration by Zimbabwean stakeholders include the fact that elections can be successfully conducted in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, if appropriate health protocols are put in place for the safe conduct of elections,” the statement read.
Zesn also called for massive voter registration, saying it allowed dispute proofing, especially in a country where the vote has always been contested.
“Mobilising voters to register and to vote in their numbers can assist in clearly determining winners in an election, and also consequently support acceptance to election results by those who would have lost the election,” Zesn said.
Initially, Lungu tried to stall vote-counting and alleged vote-rigging, but the overwhelming loss left him with no option but to concede defeat.
Elections in Zimbabwe have been contested, especially in the new millennium, with allegations of rigging.
Zesn said the Zambian example would obviate protracted electoral disputes.
“Parallel voter tabulation can contribute towards enhancing electoral integrity by providing quick updates on ongoing electoral processes, and also by verifying the election results.
“Security services play a critical role of securing electoral processes and need to remain apolitical as well as professional,” Zesn said.