Zec should simply wean itself from partisanship

Source: Zec should simply wean itself from partisanship – NewsDay Zimbabwe April 11, 2017

REPORTS that the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) is failing to conduct free and fair successive parliamentary by-elections across the country are a cause for concern given Zimbabwe is set to hold harmonised elections next year.

Comment: NewsDay Editor

Critics have repeatedly claimed Zec was failing to address the rampant electoral irregularities exposed during the by-elections since the 2013 harmonised elections, which were resoundingly won by Zanu PF.

While the discourse over Zec’s failure to conduct free and fair elections has dominated opposition parties’ agendas, we believe it is time the role of traditional leaders in elections is interrogated.

Traditional leaders aligned to Zanu PF have been accused of intimidating people to vote for those leaders’ preferred candidate, yet we have not heard Zec condemning such unorthodox campaign methods.

There have also been reports that ruling party candidates have access to State resources and food hand-outs to woo voters. This is unfortunate, as this is done at the expense of democracy.

Thus, it is important for Zec to be impartial under the circumstances. In the Mwenezi East by-election, which was won by Zanu PF’s Joosbi Omar with 18 700 votes against the National Constitutional Assembly’s Welcome Masuku and Turner Mhango of Free Zimbabwe Congress, who garnered 482 and 386 votes, respectively, there were reports of rampant vote-buying and rigging.

The Zimbabwe Human Rights Association claimed that traditional leaders had intimidated voters ahead of the by-election. Such allegations soil Zec’s credibility of being independent.

What should be understood is that Omar could have won the election in a free and fair ballot, but that these allegations have not been disproved.

Besides, Zimbabwe People First candidate, Kudakwashe Bhasikiti withdrew, citing massive vote-rigging, intimidation and vote-buying, especially by traditional leaders and State actors.

Is this not an appropriate time for Zec to acquit itself well and instil public confidence in its electoral management system?

Indeed, instead of the Justice Rita Makarau-led Zec playing politics of patronage, they should focus on rebuilding public assurance in their system following recurrent reports of political violence, use of government resources to buy votes and intimidation during every parliamentary by-election.

We do not believe Zimbabweans would want another disputed election again next year. The country’s economy has stagnated for far too long and it is time for the nation to be allowed to move on. But this can only happen if Zec is firm enough to bring political players to a roundtable to resolve all these disputes.

A disputed election for Zimbabwe will be catastrophic for the peace-loving citizens of this great nation.

The ruling Zanu PF should also desist from treating the opposition as enemies. Politics should simply be a game of minds, and, therefore, no need for hate speech, but development.

One wonders whether Zec’s failure is due to Zanu PF interference or they are simply unable to wean themselves from government.

Zec is a constitutional body, which must operate independently and, hence, its failures are simply due to partisanship.

We urge Zec to deal with issues raised by independent election observers in the Mwenezi East by-election as a way forward, otherwise opposition political parties should put more pressure on both Zec and government to reform the way elections are conducted.

The opposition should also know that Zanu PF will not reform itself out of power, but considerable action must be taken to ensure an even playing field is created.