via Wanted: Parly accountability | The Zimbabwean by Editor 18.09.13
As the 8th Parliament of Zimbabwe starts business, having been officially opened last Tuesday, it has a mammoth task ahead. It must speedily align the statutes with the new Constitution so that government departments operate within the law. It must also introduce a raft of bills, some of which must be a revisit of unfinished business during the 2008-13 tenure of the legislature.
The most important priority, however, is without a doubt the need for Parliament to give its attention to bringing the existing legislation on elections into line with the new constitution. This includes the Electoral Act and legislation relating to funding of political parties, as well as the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission.
If Zimbabwe is ever to become a properly democratic nation, the major thrust of the realignment and overhaul of the laws should be to promote transparency, professionalism and accountability in the manner in which political parties and government departments conduct their business.
The July 31 general elections raised a number of concerns around transparency, professionalism and accountability. The manner in which ZEC, together with the RG’s office, conducted voter registration, was far from satisfactory. The main accusation levelled against these two bodies by political parties and civil society was that they connived to disenfranchise significant sections of the electorate. ZEC was also accused of partisanship and was widely criticised for favouring Zanu (PF).
In addition, there have also been claims of political parties receiving funding from shadowy individuals and institutions who were apparently eyeing a piece of the cake in the post-election period. ZEC in particular has displayed glaring arrogance and disregard for the need for accountability and the rights of citizens with regards to calls for the release of documents and information in the public interest. This was evidenced when it was approached by the MDC-T seeking information to use in its poll petitions.
The incoming legislators, therefore, must give this matter their serious attention in order to ensure credible, free and fair elections in the future. There is need for Parliament to adjust the laws to compel ZEC to avail any information required by Zimbabwean citizens and institutions where the requests are legitimate and of national interest.
Political parties are also supposed to be obliged to account for all the money they receive, and to deposit such information with a legally constituted and credible public body. Furthermore, the laws should expressly spell out the penalties that the concerned institutions will face in the event that they break the law.