Be professional and accountable, new election commissioners urged

Source: Be professional and accountable, new election commissioners urged | The Herald June 23, 2016

Nyemudzai Kakore Herald Correspondent
Election commissioners have a prerogative to deliver credible elections whose results are a correct reflection of the will of the people and give rise to legitimate governments within the region, SADC Electoral Commissions Forum president Justice Rita Makarau has said.

Addressing delegates at the orientation of new commissioners of SADC English-speaking electoral commissions, Justice Makarau, who is also the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission chairperson, said election managers were perceived to be free from biases.

She said it was a requirement for commissioners to have integrity, professionalism, transparency and accountability.

“There is no school that offers a first degree in elections. We all did not study elections at school. We are teachers, political scientists, politicians, human rights activists and social scientists,” she said.

“We have, however, been entrusted to uphold our various constitutions, and have been thrust in those seats where we are no longer spectators of electoral processes but the very people our societies expect to deliver credible elections,” said Justice Makarau.

Participants at the three-day workshop were drawn from Botswana, Lesotho, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

Responding to a notion that it was difficult to unseat a sitting Government because commissioners were approved by the head of that sitting government, Justice Makarau said: “The best way is to adopt a system where the appointment processes are public-oriented, where you involve even the Parliament instead of an individual appointing.”

International Institute of Democracy and Electoral Assistance regional director (IDEA) Professor Adebayo Olukushi, said election managers should acquire skills of knowing the Electoral Act and also to interpret it in all contexts.

“Elections are technical, but they are also political, so they call for the election manager to be a leader in a situation where the whole country might be on tender rocks. You should be able to calm tensions and divisions,” he said.

“Elections on our continent are still a do-or-die affair as former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo said.

“As election managers, irrespective of your backgrounds, you should have that political judgment without being a politician.

“You cannot control the behaviour of politicians but you should manage a situation”.

The ECF-SADC is an independent regional organisation in which each SADC member state is represented by its electoral management body.

The forum has been in place since 1998 with the thrust being to ensure improvement in the management and administration of elections within SADC.