Helen Kadirire 31 May 2018
HARARE – Zimbabwe will go for polls on July 30, in what is promising to be
the toughest test for the ruling Zanu PF party, which has been in power
for 38 years.
Yesterday, President Emmerson Mnangagwa ended months of anxiety when he
proclaimed the polling date, and curiously set September 8, as a date for
a run-off poll.
Analysts are predicting a tough electoral contest between Mnangagwa, 75,
and Nelson Chamisa, 40, of the MDC.
There are over 120 fringe parties running in this poll, but the real
contest will be between Mnangagwa and Chamisa, who took over from MDC
founding president Morgan Tsvangirai, who succumbed to colon cancer on
February 14, this year.
The poll date proclamation comes as the inspection of the voters’ roll,
which was supposed to end yesterday, was extended by the Zimbabwe
Electoral Commission (Zec) to tomorrow.
According to Mnangagwa, the nomination courts for presidential candidates,
members of the National Assembly and councillors shall sit on June 14.
Dates for elections of members of the Council of Chiefs has been set for
July 11, followed by election of the president and deputy president of the
council which will be conducted on July 18.
Mnangagwa told a conclave of his ruling party that the polls “will be
free, fair and transparent, and the voice of the people will be heard”.
He also called on all candidates to campaign peacefully and focus on the
issues that “really matter”.
Opposition parties canvassed by the Daily News yesterday said they were
ready for the elections as they have been preparing for them since last
MDC Alliance spokesperson Welshman Ncube, however, doubted if institutions
responsible for the general elections would be equal to the task at hand.
Ncube said Zec was still to finish the inspection of the voters’ roll and
registration, giving new registrants little time to check if their details
are correct. Zec is also still to produce the voters’ roll for political
parties to inspect.
“From end of day today (yesterday) until the day of the nomination court,
there will be 14 days. How do they expect prospective candidates to check
if the people they want to be nominated by are registered voters? That is
just one illustration that Zec is not prepared. People who registered
during the last days of the exercise will not have an opportunity to
inspect their names,” said Ncube.
“Another issue is that there were no electoral amendments that happened.
The legal framework is not ready as well. How can you gazette electoral
amendments and election dates on the same day? How do they expect the
legal framework to function properly when it has not been given ample time
to work? The playing field is simply not appropriate and adequate to hold
elections,” Ncube said.
Constitutional law expert Lovemore Madhuku said Mnangagwa has done an
irregular thing by announcing the election dates before Zec could finalise
the voters’ roll.
He said according to the law, Mnangagwa had until August 22 to hold the
elections but said he did a rushed job in proclaiming the poll date.
The University of Zimbabwe law professor said there was no time for voters
and prospective candidates to properly inspect their names with Zec.
“The president should have waited until there was a voters’ roll for him
to proclaim the election dates. The roll had to be gazetted first before
anything else. At law, the last date of elections would have been August
22, so there was no need to rush the process. There, he has not complied
with the Constitution.
“What he did was irregular. Ideally, what would have happened was wait for
14 days after the voters’ roll has been released, then make the
announcement. Now, prospective candidates and their nominators do not know
whether they are registered voters or not for them to participate in the
elections,” Madhuku said.
Zec chairperson Priscilla Chigumba told a news conference yesterday that
since the president has proclaimed election dates, the election road map
was now available in both hard and soft copies for anyone who requires it.
She emphasised that since the inspection and registration has been
extended, any registration after Friday will not be eligible for the 2018
elections but future elections.
“The final voters’ roll will be ready for inspection a few days before the
nomination courts sit at Zec’s expense. After that, anyone requiring the
voters’ roll will be able to get it from the secretariat at a stipulated
fee,” she told reporters.
“So far, we have established 10 800 polling stations, with the provision
for sub polling stations in areas that have more than 1 000 registered
voters. The sub polling stations have been established to make the process
smoother so that voters do not take too much time casting their votes.
“The budget for the elections can only be calculated once they have been
conducted, however we submitted a budget of $190 million and government
said they could avail $140 million while the remainder was carried by our
She clarified that voting will be conducted manually and not
electronically and compilation and announcement of votes will also be done
the traditional way.