BY HARRIET CHIKANDIWA /TAPFUMANEI MUCHABAIWA
GOVERNMENT has failed to adequately fund the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) to conduct electoral activities, including pending March 2022 by-elections.
The was revealed by Zec deputy elections officer Jane Chigiji yesterday when she appeared before the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Justice to speak on the commission’s 2022 budget allocation.
Finance minister Mthuli Ncube allocated $11,6 billion to Zec against its $23 billion bid to conduct various electoral activities next year.
Zec is supposed to conduct a voter registration blitz, by-elections to fill vacant local government and parliamentary seats in March and a delimitation exercise — redrawing electoral boundaries ahead of the 2023 elections.
But Chigiji said the Zec allocation was too little to cater for the costly exercises.
“We had put up a bid of $23 billion for preparation for the 2022 by-elections. Only $11,6 billion was allocated to us, meaning that there is a huge shortfall,” Chigiji said.
“We intend to conduct a voter registration blitz by the end of 2021, but it has been moved to 2022 to pave way for the Registrar-General’s Office to be able to issue identity documents, which are key for voter registration.
“We have pending by elections, the proposed budget allocation is not adequate to support the policy, priorities and strategies. We hope that in the event of a supplementary budget following the midterm review statement, additional support will be availed to Zec.”
Election watchdogs such as the Zimbabwe Election Support Network (Zesn) have said inadequate funding of Zec is a threat to democracy as it impedes electoral processes.
Chigiji said other challenges affecting Zec include the need to fill vacant posts in the electoral body and a review of salaries of its employees.
“The commission again may fail to avail competitive conditions of service leading to mass resignations and failure to attack skilled manpower required for Zec to carry out its mandate and this will compromise the service delivery of the commission,” she said.
Political analysts said measly allocations to Zec show a lack of commitment on the part of government to conduct free and fair elections.
“The willingness of ensuring the independence of the commission should be evident in how the body is enabled through funding to carry out the requisite tasks such as voter registration and education,” political analyst Vivid Gwede said.
“So the funding just represents one of the many factors limiting the capacities of the commission. However, funding Zec before it is reformed as an institution in terms of its independence would not help much,” he said.
On Wednesday, President Emmerson Mnangagwa torched a storm when he said opposition parties and civic organisations have failed to explain what kind of electoral reforms they were demanding.
Mnangagwa said this while addressing the Zanu PF 357th politburo meeting.
“This misplaced narrative that we need reforms, economic reforms, electoral reforms is misplaced. No one has said what types of electoral reforms are required,” Mnangagwa said.
But MDC Alliance spokesperson Fadzayi Mahere said there was need to implement the Sadc guidelines on elections.
“We reiterate our call for the alignment of electoral laws to the Constitution. We also call for the earnest implementation of the Sadc guidelines and the full disbandment of the partisan and militarised Zec secretariat.
“In fact, the MDC Alliance led by Advocate Nelson Chamisa believes that our widely published #PRICE (Reliable, Inclusive and Credible Elections) campaign spells out all the reforms necessary for a free, fair and credible election,” Mahere said.
Mnangagwa’s government has been accused of lacking political will to implement reforms despite promises to do so.