BY MIRIAM MANGWAYA
A REPORT by the Citizen in Action Southern Africa (CIASA) has shown that Zimbabweans are increasingly losing confidence in the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) over its management of electoral processes.
The report titled Capturing the Judiciary: Reality or Phantom, which was released last Friday, said Zec has been selectively applying its powers, which has resulted in the public doubting its capacity to produce indisputable polls.
In the report, CIASA analyses the recent ruling by the High Court, which reversed a ruling on the cancellation of constituency vacancies made by the same court and saw Zec setting a new date for nominations for six vacant seats in Harare East, Mbizo, Kambuzuma, Nkulumane, Pumula and Mutasa South.
The seats fell vacant after the recall of People’s Democratic Party (PDP) members Harare East, Mbizo, Kambuzuma, Nkulumane, Pumula and Mutasa South. by the said party.
“The case on Zec’s independence is largely built on the basis that they require the Justice minister (Ziyambi Ziyambi) to approve or facilitate their law-making function, without which they cannot directly interface with the Parliament of Zimbabwe for law-making purposes,” CIASA said in the report.
“In a statement announcing the cancellation of nomination courts seating for the six PDP constituencies, Zec chief elections officer Utloile Silaigwana, stated that: ‘The proclamation calling for by-elections issued by the President in terms of Statutory Instrument 1 of 2022 on January 6, 2022 is accordingly amended.’
“This by all means confirms the long-held suspicion that Zec’s insistence on limited law-making functions is, therefore, selectively applied. This is concretised by the fact that a day later, after another court ruling, Zec turned around and said it needed to check the legal feasibility of reopening nomination court which they did nevertheless.”
CIASA said political players and the general public had lost confidence in Zec’s capacity to deliver free, fair and credible elections since the disputed 2018 elections.
As the country is geared towards the March 26 by-elections and the 2023 polls, there is increased demand among civic society and political parties for Zec to be more transparent in handling electoral processes.
“Trust in Zec depends on how open the electoral body is to the public,” Zimbabwe Election Support Network chairperson Andrew Makoni said.
“The more open Zec becomes, the more it gains public trust. Zec, therefore, should strive to improve its accountability and transparency on its functions to regain public confidence in its operations. It must be willing to understand from the public itself why it is losing confidence in it, for it to be able to address their concerns.”
Election Resource Centre legal and advocacy officer Takunda Tsunga said: “The loss of public confidence in the electoral commission and election management is a sign of the breakdown in the citizen-state relationship. This is a result of the disputed 2018 harmonised elections and failure to address the issues that brought about those disputes including implementation of necessary reforms to boost confidence.”