‘Reforms delay jeopardises polls’ 

Source: ‘Reforms delay jeopardises polls’ – DailyNews Live

STAFF WRITER      19 April 2018

HARARE – Delays in considering the proposed amendments to the electoral
laws is the biggest threat to a repeat of unrest at this year’s vote, the
country’s biggest election watchdog has warned, saying hopes that reforms
and new technology will ease a pressure cooker of tensions were being

President Emmerson Mnangagwa, who took power last November after a
military-engineered intervention that ousted long-ruling despot Robert
Mugabe, promised new rules would be in place for the next election,
scheduled for mid-year, and promised a free and fair poll, but no
substantive reforms have taken place so far.

Nelson Chamisa, the presidential candidate of the largest opposing
coalition, the MDC Alliance, has said his conglomeration will unfurl
street demonstrations and boycott elections if no electoral reforms are

Zimbabwe Election Support Network (Zesn) director Rindai Chipfunde-Vava,
pictured below, said delays by Parliament to finalise the enactment of
comprehensive reforms to the Electoral Act in line with constitutional
provisions were disconcerting.

Special sittings of Parliament that were arranged last week to have
“urgent government business” completed, particularly the Electoral
Amendment Bill, came to nought.

MPs were recalled from recess, which was supposed to end at the close of
April, but the National Assembly made no progress at all on the Electoral
Amendment Bill.

The National Assembly’s Order Paper for the special sitting included
proposed amendments to the Bill notified by the Justice, Legal and
Parliamentary Affairs minister Ziyambi Ziyambi and Innocent Gonese, the
MDC chief whip.

Debate did not take off purportedly because notices of further proposed
amendments had been lodged too late and as a result, was adjourned until
May 8.

“Zesn reiterates its position that the country’s electoral laws are
significantly inadequate thus the need for urgent reform to create an
enabling framework for the holding of free, fair, peaceful and credible

“The Network calls upon legislators to put aside political differences and
finalise the reform process especially given the imminence of the 2018

“While Zesn recognises some of the proposed amendments which include a
provision for the closing of the voters’ roll before nomination, the
network calls for full enforcement of current provisions such as the
obligation of the public media to give fair coverage to all political
parties and candidates.

“Based on previous experiences, there is need for enforcement of the
current provisions for persons who will need assistance to vote to avoid
abuse of the facility on election day,” Chipfunde-Vava said.

Zimbabwe is switching to an electronic register of voters after ballot
boxes at the last elections were said to contain the votes of people who
had not registered and even some who were dead.

“In addition, Zesn calls upon the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) to
publicise the procedures in the respect of data management, security and
the de-duplication process in order to enhance transparency and
stakeholder confidence in line with Section 156 of the Constitution.

“The absence of clear regulations on the management of information
captured during the Biometric Voter Registration (BVR) exercise
compromises the integrity of the entire voter registration process,”
Chipfunde-Vava said.

She said as part of the proposed legal reforms, Zesn was calling for the
Parliament of Zimbabwe to be accorded the oversight role over the Zimbabwe
Electoral Commission (Zec) as opposed to the ministry of Justice, … to
ensure that its independence is not compromised by the Executive or any
power or authority.

“Furthermore, executive interference in electoral processes such as its
seconding of persons to the Observer Accreditation Committee and in the
enactment of electoral regulations must be removed,” she said referring to
the move by the Foreign Affairs ministry to invite 46 countries to oversee
crucial presidential, parliamentary and municipal elections.

The invitations for observers was extended to member States of the
Southern African Development Community, the European Union, China, India,
Russia, Turkey and the US among others, according to Foreign Affairs and
International Trade secretary Joey Bimha.

The Zesn director said it was essential for the political players to
demonstrate genuine political will to effect electoral reforms which are
critical to the creation of an enabling electoral environment.

“If the country is to hold free, fair and credible elections as pronounced
by the President, Zec chairperson and government officials, it is
imperative that the Electoral Act is fully aligned with the Constitution
well in advance of the impending harmonised election to give adequate time
for the implementation of the reforms,” Chipfunde-Vava said.