The MDC-T is rocked by serious clashes over the need to reform the Zimbabwe Electoral Commissin (Zec) ahead of the referendum tomorrow and general elections
after party leader , Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangiraiand senior official, Deputy Justice minister Obert Gutu made public conflicting remarks on the issue.
While Tsvangirai, who is accused of now being cosy with President Robert Mugabe, this week made a statement expressing satisfaction with Zec’s secretariat, Gutu has added his voice to calls demanding urgent reform of Zec saying the militarisation of the electoral body and the continued failure to give legal effect to the appointment of a substantive chairperson is detrimental to the holding of credible elections. The MDC-T has been demanding an overhaul of Zec secretariat, saying it is full of Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO) and other security operatives allegedly responsible for the chaos that characterised the 2008 presidential elections condemned as a sham. While Tsvangirai appeared to exonerate Zec blaming an “underhand force” for the “shenanigans” that led to the disputed polls, Gutu said the presence of personnel with security backgrounds in the Zec secretariat was cause for concern.
“There are hygiene issues which need to be addressed with respect to Zec,” said Gutu. “Zec must be cleaned up to remove those people who have compromised the credibility of elections in the past. As for (Zec acting chairperson Joyce) Kazembe, I have nothing personal against her, but the law is very clear that Zec should be headed by a legal practitioner of at least seven years standing or someone who qualifies to be appointed as a High Court judge.”
While Tsvangirai backed Kazembe to continue as acting chairperson at least until after the referendum, Gutu took exception with the failure to timeously appoint Justice Rita Makarau, charging this is in contravention of the constitution.
Gutu said he has not been “kept in the loop about the failure to give legal effect to the appointment of Makarau, whom he described as a “distinguished jurist with impeccable credentials”.
Gutu’s comments contradict those of Tsvangirai, who is ready to proceed with the referendum under the leadership of Kazembe.
“The principals expect Justice Makarau to be sworn in soon after the referendum subject to the completion of the procedural requirements under the constitution,” Tsvangirai said.
Although Mugabe, Tsvangirai and deputy premier Mutambara agreed to the appointment of Makarau, procedural requirements that need to be followed to regularise the appointment include the convening of parliament’s Standing Rules and Orders Committee to deliberate on the matter.
However, Gutu concurred with Tsvangirai that Zec, and not the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, had the legal mandate to invite poll observers. Foreign Affairs minister Simbarashe Mumbengegwi has said American and European Union (EU) observers would not be allowed into Zimbabwe because of the sanctions they imposed on Zanu PF officials.
“It is Zec and not the Foreign Affairs ministry which has the legal mandate to invite observers,” said Gutu. “We expect them to exercise that mandate, including inviting the EU and they should not be seen to be toeing the Zanu PF party line.”
Zec acting chairperson Joyce Kazembe said the EU and American observers would not be coming to the referendum, but denied claims the electoral body was taking directives from Zanu PF or any other quarter on the issue which has divided the shaky coalition government.
“It is actually the prerogative of the (Zec) commission’s accreditation committee to make those decisions,” said Kazembe while briefing Sadc observers and other stakeholders on the state of preparedness for the referendum in Harare on Wednesday.