THE opposition Movement for Democratic Change has slammed government’s proposed legislation on electoral reform, saying it did not meet even the most rudimentary standards of democracy. It sa
id the reforms were a smokescreen behind which “the same old institutions and faces who stand accused of electoral fraud” would remain in place.
Appointments to the Delimitation Commission made this week reinforced the “military element” in elections, the party said.
MDC secretary-general Welshman Ncube said the reforms were a “smoke-and-mirrors” act by Zanu PF to appear as if it was complying with the regional standards for elections while actually manipulating the electoral process.
Southern African Development Community (Sadc) heads of state last month adopted principles and guidelines governing democratic elections that call for free and fair polls. The principles forbid “the perpetration of electoral fraud, rigging and other illegal practices”.
Ncube said the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) Bill gazetted last Friday was a sham because it woefully failed to address the fundamental issues.
The Bill proposes an independent electoral commission; voting in one day instead of two; use of transparent ballot boxes; and counting of ballots at polling stations. The ZEC will run all elections and referendums.
But Ncube said the proposed changes were simply meant to give legitimacy to a profoundly flawed electoral process which did not “meet even the most rudimentary standards of democratic elections”.
“The ZEC will in theory be in charge of the elections but practically nothing will change. It will only have legal responsibility but no effective control,” Ncube said. “At the end of the day the same old institutions and faces who stand accused of electoral fraud and manipulation will remain in place.”
The MDC said Zanu PF functionaries and the army would remain in charge of the electoral process despite “make-believe” reforms.
Registrar-General Tobaiwa Mudede’s office will remain involved in elections. Retired army officers will continue to hold sway in electoral agencies.
The army reportedly played a key role during the hotly-disputed 2002 presidential election, especially at the National Command Centre.
The MDC said the “military element” in the electoral process was this week reinforced by appointments to the Delimitation Commission.
Justice George Chiweshe, a former army judge advocate-general, and Job Whabira, ex-Defence permanent secretary, were appointed to the commission together with two others. The opposition described Chiweshe and Whabira as partisan.
The ESC is chaired by Sobusa Gula Ndebele, a former military intelligence officer, and has as its chief elections officer, Kennedy Zimondi, a retired lieutenant colonel. Zimondi replaced Brigadier Douglas Nyikayaramba who was in charge during the 2002 election.
The introduction of reforms through an Act of Parliament – as opposed to a constitutional amendment – means that the current Electoral Supervisory Commission (ESC) will remain there. Zanu PF decided to introduce changes through a Bill because the MDC refused to support the “piecemeal” reforms.
The opposition wanted the changes to be tied to other broad political issues.
Justice minister Patrick Chinamasa said the ESC would continue to perform its current functions of supervising elections, while the ZEC would conduct the polls.
The chairman of the ZEC will be appointed by President Robert Mugabe in consultation with – and not the approval of – the Judicial Services Commission, something the MDC is vehemently opposed to.