BY RICHARD MUPONDE/MIRIAM MANGWAYA
THE Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) is in the eye of a storm after issuing a bizarre release responding to allegations of poll theft against MDC Alliance leader Nelson Chamisa’s reported victory in the 2018 presidential poll.
This followed poll theft reports raised in a book detailing how Zec could have been stampeded to rig the election in favour of the ruling Zanu PF party leader President Emmerson Mnangagwa two years ago.
Former Zanu PF politburo member and Higher Education minister Jonathan Moyo in his book titled Excelgate: How Zimbabwe’s 2018 Presidential Election was Stolen, which was published in December 2019 claimed that Zec had worked with security apparatus to overturn the result in favour of President Mnangagwa.
Zec declared Mnangagwa the winner with 50,7% of the votes, narrowly avoiding a run-off with Chamisa who officially received 44,3%.
But in his book, Moyo claimed that Mnangagwa polled 33% to Chamisa’s 66%, and that the Joint Operations Command, which brings together the state security apparatus high command, reportedly tampered with ballot figures in a “brazen” and “audacious” fraud.
Zec shot back at the weekend claiming Moyo’s allegations were ‘damaging’ and ‘unfounded.’
“We have seen some damaging allegations against the Commission in a book called Excelgate by Prof. J. Moyo. Take note that the election was conducted in 2018 and aggrieved parties followed the constitutionally laid down procedures to challenge the election,” Zec said on its Twitter account.
“The Constitutional Court (ConCourt) made a definitive ruling which concluded the matter. The commission will not be drawn into any brawls on issues that have been concluded by the country’s highest court. The commission is busy with important work of stakeholder consultations on how to map 2023 election delimitation and will not be distracted from its constitutional mandate by unfounded allegations.”
Moyo, hit back, claiming that Zec chairperson, Justice Priscilla Chigumba had received an advance copy of the book in December 2019, rendering its unexpected statement on Friday “suspicious”.
“You pretend that you have just seen Excelgate’s contents yet your chairperson, Justice Priscilla Chigumba, was given a copy in December 2019,” he responded on Twitter.
“The ConCourt case was one process, Excelgate is based on researched and verifiable facts.”
Zec chief elections officer Utoile Silaigwana, a former army officer, who is mentioned by Moyo as having been in the loop, refused to discuss why the commission was revisiting the issue.
“It’s very clear that we are not going to discuss the issue. Why do you want to comment on an issue which was solved by the courts? We are not going to comment on that,” Silaigwana said.
But political analysts yesterday said it was surprising that with the looming 2023 elections, Zec had revived the 2018 allegations that it aided electoral theft and demanded that it responds to Moyo’s specific allegations if it was to be considered credible and independent by stakeholders.
Political analyst Fidelis Duri said Zec was desperate for credibility.
“There was a lot of talk on how the elections were rigged following Moyo’s publication and Zec was quiet. The reason is that Zec is desperate for credibility now that we are heading for the 2023 elections. Zec is under spotlight by both local and international election observers, hence it has to clear the air on allegations of electoral fraud and it had to respond to Moyo’s claims,” Duri said.
“Responding now can just be described as desperate measures to gain credibility and the mandate to run the 2023 elections. Zec has lost its credibility amidst the issue of former Chief Justice Luke Malaba fiasco.”
Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum executive director Musa Kika said: “This is a classic diversion from accountability. Zec is not being truthful when it says Moyo’s claims were dealt with by the courts. For instance, he is claiming that Zec is infiltrated by members of the Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO). That issue was never brought before the courts. We expect Zec to take seriously Moyo’s claims and prove beyond reasonable doubt that they are false if it wants to clear the air on the question of credibility which is hanging.”
He added: “Failure to do that means we are going to the 2023 elections which would be run by a body that has lost its credibility among the electorate and within the political space.”
Moyo alleged in his book that in the elaborate electoral fraud, “the key operative who was the centre and mainstay of the rigging system and around whom the rest of the hands-on operatives coalesced, was Mavis Matsanga, an active CIO divisional intelligence officer (DIO), first seconded to Zec in 2008. Fully embedded in Zec, Matsanga is the chief information security officer in the all-important operations division”.
“As an embedded active CIO operative under the guise of a seconded official, (Mavis) Matsanga’s CIO credentials and real work at Zec is known only to (Priscilla) Chigumba, the Zec chairperson, as it was known to her predecessor, Justice Rita Makarau.
“To put Matsanga’s job at Zec bluntly, it is to manage and rig elections for Zanu PF under the command of the CIO. In the 2018 harmonised elections, Matsanga was deputised by one Chivasa, a retired military operative, seconded to Zec by the ZDF (Zimbabwe Defence Forces) specifically to rig elections.”
Repeated efforts to get comments from Matsanga and Chivasa yesterday were futile.