BY PRIVELEDGE GUMBODETE/LORRAINE MUROMO
ELECTORAL watchdog Zimbabwe Election Support Network (Zesn) has implored under-fire Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) to consider engaging independent auditors to scrutinise its voters roll as a way of restoring confidence in the electoral process.
The election body has of late been criticised for several irregularities picked up in its latest voters roll by opposition political parties and activist groups such as Team Pachedu.
Some of the discrepancies unearthed by the activist groups include changes to 156 polling stations, movement of 177 000 voters and registration of voters with unknown or unnamed residential addresses.
In a statement yesterday, Zesn said if the allegations were true, then it meant that Zec had violated the Electoral Act and affected the credibility of the upcoming election.
“If these allegations are true, Zec might have infringed the Electoral Act which guides the administration of electoral processes in Zimbabwe; in particular sections 22A(2), 33(4), 35(2) which stipulate that the Commission should consult all interested parties when determining the location of polling stations and the areas that the polling stations serve; all removals from the voters roll and the publishing in the Gazette of all alterations to the voters roll that are made without the oral or written consent of a voter,” Zesn statement read.
“Lack of communication to citizens about such changes in the voters roll can disenfranchise potential voters, create perceptions on possible manipulation or fraud and more so, can remove trust and confidence in electoral processes and election results.”
As a way to restore confidence in the electoral process, Zesn advised the election administrator to allow reputable independent audit companies to interrogate the voters roll.
“Zesn reiterates its call for Zec to consider independent audits of the voters roll by reputable audit companies as a way to build trust and confidence in the voters roll. Zesn further urges Zec to avail the voters roll to other key electoral stakeholders who may indicate an interest to also analyse and triangulate the information,” Zesn said.
It also urged Zec to reform by putting in place mechanism that enhance holding of free and fair elections.
“Zesn implores Zec to put in place ways and mechanisms to enhance citizens’ and multi-stakeholders’ confidence in all electoral processes guided by the electoral laws of Zimbabwe as well as regional and international instruments on the conduct of democratic elections.”
Last week, Zec chairperson Justice Priscilla Chigumba went ballistic when stakeholders asked her to explain discrepancies in the voters roll to be used in the March 26 by-elections, saying she was only accountable to Parliament, not social media.
Chigumba was responding to questions at the multi-party liaison committee meeting in Harare.
Election observers described Chigumba’s response as “malicious” and undermining public scrutiny of electoral processes.
“Both Parliament and independent commissions are a product of collective voices of members of the public which she is trivialising as social media. Her definition of social media is contrived and stereotyped — obviously for selfish gains,” Zimbabwe Election Advocacy Trust (Zeat) executive director, Ignatius Sadziwa said.
Election Resource Centre programmes manager Solomon Bobosibunu said: “If the commission uses social media to communicate its programmes and events, surely it must also be cognisant that citizens can also raise issues on the same platform. It is actually in bad taste for the commission to brush off citizens when they have issues to raise about the voters roll. The commission must respond.”
Political analyst Alexander Rusero said: “Zec is not necessarily accountable and answerable to Parliament — that’s a mischievous mischaracterisation. Zec is firstly accountable to people — upon which all institutions are created to cater for their needs. Parliament is made for people and not people for Parliament. Zec should get used to social media, it is here to stay. Zec is not and must not behave like a political actor.”