BY LORRAINE MUROMO/PRIVELEDGE GUMBODETE
THE Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) said there was no law prohibiting the elections management body from being run by the military.
“You talk about the militarisation of the commission, I will ask a very simple question: Do we have a legal and provisional framework on recruitment of former serving officers?” Zec spokesperson Jasper Mangwana said in response to a question on the militarisation of Zec posed by Gweru legislator Brian Dube at a Twitter Spaces event organised by the Zimbabwe Election Support Network on Monday evening.
He claimed that calls by the opposition and other critics for the demilitarisation of Zec were informed by ignorance.
“Can you make it into law that if someone applies at Zec and wants a job and is a former Zimbabwe Prisons and Correctional Service (ZPCS) employee, even if he has the qualifications to be a driver or maybe a clerk in the commission, the commission must not consider them because for us to act without the law it means we are going to be infringing other people’s rights,” Mangwana said.
Zec has been under the spotlight over the recruitment of former and serving officers, with critics, saying this was denting the electoral body’s credibility.
In 2018, Zec chairperson Priscilla Chigumba disclosed that at least 15% of the elections administrator’s staff, then over 380, were ex-service personnel.
Its chief elections officer Utoile Silaigwana is a retired army officer and has a long history of running disputed elections since the era of the late former President Robert Mugabe.
“I do not think it’s going to be fair simply to say you once worked at ZRP (Zimbabwe Republic Police), you have the qualifications, but you cannot work at the commission. But what you should take us to account about is to say there is an officer in the commission who did not follow procedure and here is the procedure was not followed,” Mangwana added.
Opposition parties, however, insisted that military personnel must not be part of Zec.
“As the opposition, we question the neutrality of these members who come from the military. The military code is you do not resign. If a crisis arises you are always called for duty despite resigning. Hence this can only mean they are there to serve a purpose,” Citizens Coalition for Change interim deputy secretary for elections Ellen Shiriyedenga said.
MDC Alliance director of information Chengeto Guta said: “Military personnel are not necessarily supposed to be disallowed to participate in government. If you look at what is happening in Zec right now, there are constitutional breaches, countless of them. But again, it is not only happening at Zec, but at every other State enterprise.”