Makarau bares soul on July 31 polls

via Makarau bares soul on July 31 polls | The Financial Gazette by Maggie Mzumara 7 Nov 2013

THE electoral process which culminated in the July 31 harmonised polls, though generally peaceful, was tense, taut and fractured with mistrust, accusations and counter-accusations. Although it is the outcome of the polls which brought tensions to a boil, the whole electoral processes from voter education to voter registration, voting and vote counting on a number of accounts was not beyond reproach. At the centre of it all was one, a justice of the law, a lawyer, a woman and a professional, Rita Makarau (RM) the chairperson of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC), who went to lengths to try and keep the whole process together. Now that the election dust has settled, the Financial Gazette News Editor, Maggie Mzumara (MM), sought to pick the brains of Zimbabwe’s “iron lady of elections” and below is what came out of it.

MM: Justice Makarau now that the dust has settled on the harmonised elections 2013, what do you carry with you as the highlight of that process?
RM: What I carry with me as the highlight of the process was the peace that prevailed before, during and after the elections, given the violence that marred past elections. To a very large extent it is that peaceful environment that was also observed by many local and foreign observers and contributed to the elections being adjudged credible and free by the majority of observers. I also carry with me as a highlight the highly professional manner in which all commissioners and the entire staff of ZEC discharged their responsibilities.
MM: What specific challenges, if any, did you find daunting?
RM: There were many challenges in the process but the ones that I would single out were:
l The logistical challenges posed by the special vote by its very nature and by the fact that this was a new feature of our elections on which we had had no chance to rehearse before actual polling. We were thus test piloting the special vote in the actual elections.
l The late releases of funding by Treasury compromised our capacity to roll out some of our processes in good time as some service providers needed to be paid in advance. Procurement of some election material had to be done during the last few days before polling and this compromised on the quality of some of the goods although at the end of the day all election material was delivered to polling stations in time for the elections, and  A tight timeframe within which to roll out all our electoral processes. This timeframe did not, upon its conception, adequately take into account the right of losing candidates to challenge the results of nomination courts. The numerous court challenges dragged on into the process and reduced the number of days within which we had to design the ballot papers for printing. For instance, for the special vote, we were still designing ballot papers, one-and-half-days before the commencement of polling.
MM: How did you manage to stay the course and soldier on amidst all that scrutiny and obviously some criticism? 
RM: During elections, we knew that all our activities would be under the microscope. We tried our best to be professional, to keep an open door policy and to be transparent in all our processes. We believe we managed to pull through because we had the support of most Zimbabweans who were fair minded and were genuinely convinced that we were trying our level best in the circumstances. Where we were criticised, we believed that most of the criticism was deserved and we were the first ones at all times to own up to some of the challenges that we were encountering. We strove at all times to do the correct thing by diligent application of the law and earnest engagement of stakeholders throughout the election period. Knowing that we were doing our best in difficult circumstances helped us to stay the course.
MM: Any lessons learnt for you personally and also for ZEC and even perhaps for the nation at large?
RM: There are many lessons that can be picked up from the last elections. Chief amongst these is that processes such as a general election must be owned by all and be supported by all.  Most stakeholders in Zimbabwe do not trust each other and so we still have a “them” and “us” attitude towards elections. We thus always believe that “them” are out to cheat. This lack of trust, unfortunately also affects the media which, during elections, must act effectively as the fourth estate that should ensure that all behave electorally correct by exposing, without fear or favour, all electoral errors not only by the election management body but also by any of the candidates. Sadly, the nation remained polarised and thus very partial towards one political interest or the other.
MM: For every task or mission to be carried out, there is always need for a conducive environment, what would have constituted an enabling environment for you?
RM: It would have helped us a whole lot if there was less polarisation amongst all the stakeholders and we were all working towards the common good of the country. We would have wanted the media to really come to our aid and police the candidates and all other stakeholders impartially and effectively. 
MM: Is there anything you could have done differently? 
RM: Yes, as usual, in hindsight, we would have done a whole lot of things differently. We would have wanted to be fully capacited to carry out the voter registration exercise that preceded the elections. We would have wanted to fully understand the processes involved in the special vote before actual polling commenced and we would have wanted to explain all our processes more clearly and intensely to the electorate to gain their trust and confidence that their vote cannot be tampered with and that the results we announce correctly reflect the way they would have voted.
MM: Do you look forward to the next elections with trepidation? Enthusiasm? Or what?
RM: We cannot wait for the next elections. We are more than ready to show the nation that we have learnt our lessons and that we have learnt these lessons very well. We believe that with the experience we have gained during the past elections, Zimbabwean elections will never be the same.


  • comment-avatar
    Chirandu Chegono 10 years ago

    This is a very armature piece of journalism. The poor journalist did not even ask the pertinent issues that dogged the elections, like provision of the Voter registration roll for scrutiny by interested parties. Up to now ZEC can’t furnish that. There were so many accusations to ZEC like assisted voting, the flip flop approach of ZEC where they would allow the Tsholotsho ballot boxes to be opened for Jonah Moyo & not the same could be accorded to Jameson Timba in Mt Pleasasnt, how does Makarau explain that? Well Fingaz, is this the quality of journalists you employ? Shame, shame.

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    Dzvondo 10 years ago

    I too am pretty disappointed by the shallowness of the interview (or the journalist). Here is a lady who presided over the greatest theft in Zimbabwe and you are busy asking her job-interview-like questions .
    You shud have asked the poor lady
    1. Voter reg fiasco : Can you confirm from now on that ZEC since you have almost 5 years you shall take over the voter reg and cleanup exercise as this has caused serious differences? Can we have online reg of voters etc etc ,.
    2.The electronic Voter reg where is it and why is it not being made available to MDC. Why was it not made available to MDC before and after the election?
    3.Is your Conscience Clear Makarau? Are you not shamed of having presided over a grand electoral fraud

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    Daniel Berejena 10 years ago

    The who article is an effort to get the MDC-T accept that genuine errors were made in the election process, so that they acknowledge Mugabe as the legitimate leader. That is not it. I see the hand of Jonathan Moyo behind this.

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    Tsuro Magen'a 10 years ago

    I just browsed through the article and read it in half a minute….it was just a PR journalism…Fin Gaz please do not turn your paper into a ZANU mouth piece, the Herald and ZBC are more than enough.

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    goodlife 10 years ago

    truelly hogwash

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    munzwa 10 years ago

    Yah, perhaps another interview is needed, questions asked in relation to the articles being aired now on the rigging process and ZEC involvement or complicity of the process. Do’nt forget Rita if you were not happy with the fraud taking place you could always have done the honorable thing and resigned despite any threats that might have followed or are we to presume that a substantial handshake was offered?

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    Maggie we all know from Solusi University…this is laughing stock material and you make some of us think this is what we make at Solusi.. U are an embarrassment to the profession..

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    Haruna 10 years ago

    Poor interview on a street woman Makarau.

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    Farai 10 years ago

    Rubbish interview.

    The major questions should have been to do with

    – Voters roll
    – High number of assisted voters
    – Nikuv

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    Wekari 10 years ago

    I only read the questions asked and concluded that this was total rubbish. Some journalism. Nxa!!

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    isaacm 10 years ago

    Such journalist must be fired -cannot see how the nation is limping and deep rooted fiscal challenges all pointing to how elections have been stolen in Zim since 1980.The whole set up is disgusting.

  • comment-avatar 10 years ago