ZEC should be honest and candid

The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) has got the very important and demanding constitutional mandate to run elections that are free, fair and credible. The MDC,together with several other opposition political parties under the national electoral reform agenda (NERA), has been at the forefront of vigorously pushing for the adoption of electoral reforms that are meant to vaccinate the Zimbabwean political and electoral environment against the toxic virus of poll rigging.

Source: ZEC should be honest and candid – The Zimbabwean 16.10.2016 by Obert Gutu

The rigging of elections can be both overt and covert. There are more obvious forms of poll rigging such as the staffing of ballot boxes, multiple voting etc. There are other more subtle and highly sophisticated forms of electoral rigging such as the manipulation of the voters roll, both manual and electronic, as well as the use of ballot papers that are chemically designed to project a particular result at any given polling station.

A lot has been said and written about how the Zanu PF regime,working in cahoots with the Israeli company, Nikuv, employed a highly sophisticated method to rig the harmonized elections that were held on July 31,2013. This was a very smart and cutting edge approach to the ‘art’ of electoral rigging. To this very day,very few people, even within the top echelons of the Zanu PF regime, are aware of how, exactly, the July 31, 2013 elections were rigged. Be that as it may, it doesn’t need a rocket scientist to know that the result of the plebiscite that was held in Zimbabwe on July 31,2013 didn’t reflect the wishes of the majority of the voters.Put bluntly,the election was stolen.

Election 2018 is less than 24 months away and this is the time for ZEC to put all the necessary systems in place to ensure that the elections will produce a result that is credible and legitimate ; a result that is beyond contestation thus underlying the need for the holding of free and fair elections. ZEC has announced that a new voters’ roll will be produced for Election 2018.They have also announced that only 1500 voters will be allowed per polling station and that the new voters’ roll will have photographs of all registered voters. This is the time that ZEC should collaborate and liase with all legitimate political parties and other relevant stakeholders to ensure that as far as is practically possible, the next elections will be free and fair.
The situation on the ground,however,is pointing to the fact that ZEC is terribly ill – prepared and ill – equipped to conduct a free and fair election in Zimbabwe. ZEC chairperson, Justice Rita Makarau, was recently quoted in the public domain announcing that the electoral reforms will cost about US$30 million and that both the government and donors will fund this program. We all know that the government of Zimbabwe is nearly bankrupt and that it will most likely be unable to make any significant financial contribution to meeting the said cost. Thus, it is incumbent upon ZEC to make a full public disclosure of the names of the donors who will be funding this process.As the MDC, we are extremely concerned about the lack of transparency pertaining to the manner in which ZEC generally conducts its affairs. There is a very disturbing and worrisome veneer of secrecy surrounding such issues as where and who prints ballot papers,who supplies the indelible ink that is used at polling stations etc.We robustly demand and declare that all these essential matters pertaining to the running of free and fair elections should be fully and adequately disclosed and discussed with all political parties that are participating in the electoral process. More importantly, ZEC should immediately proceed to terminate the contracts of employment of all CIO and other State security agents who are presently running the ZEC secretariat. The ZEC secretariat has been the engine room of the electoral rigging process in Zimbabwe. Previous experience has taught us that certain key figures within the ZEC secretariat do not report to the Commissioners. They actually report directly to their political masters at Munhumutapa and Chaminuka buildings.
ZEC is also disturbingly powerless when it comes to dealing with the rampant vote buying gimmicks of Zanu PF. Just a few days ago whilst addressing a Zanu PF campaign rally for the Norton by – election, Vice President Phelekezela Mphoko boasted that Zanu PF Cabinet Ministers and other top ruling party politicians will continue to ‘take’ financial and other resources from State corporations and dish out this loot to Zanu PF supporters and other ruling party operatives ; particularly during election campaigns. Surpringly, ZEC did not come up with any public denunciation of this patently unlawful and unconstitutional utterance by Vice President Mphoko. The impression that is,therefore,created amongst ordinary Zimbabweans is that ZEC is just a toothless and powerless election management body that is effectively under the control and command of the Zanu PF regime. This is contrary to the provisions of Section 232 of the Constitution of Zimbabwe that lists ZEC amongst five of the country’s independent constitutional commissions.
There is still a very long way to go for ZEC to gain the confidence and trust of the majority of Zimbabweans. For now, ZEC is coming across as a lame duck and weak organization that is routinely bullied around by the Zanu PF regime. The MDC would like to call upon Justice Rita Makarau and all her other commissioners in ZEC to immediately wake up and smell the coffee !