THE majority of Zimbabweans do not trust the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) as they believe the body is compromised and manipulates election results, according to a survey conducted by the Zimbabwe Democracy Institute (ZDI).
The survey, titled Zimbabwe Independent Commissions Supporting Democracy: Perceptions Towards Zimbabwe Electoral Commission and Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission, released this week reveals that Zimbabweans also believe the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission (ZHRC) is not independent.
ZDI conducted the survey in Harare’s high-density suburbs of Epworth, Hatcliffe and Highfield. The organisation interviewed 308 respondents, male and female, of varying ages of 18 and above.
Seventy-nine percent of the respondents were of the view that the composition of Zec influences electoral processes. Of the people interviewed 73% said they had lost trust in Zec and accused the body of failing to conduct previous elections in a credible manner.
In addition, the 2013 harmonised elections which saw President Robert Mugabe winning against MDC-T leader Morgan Tsvangirai were judged as poorly conducted (76%), with 59% saying “very poor” and 17% saying “poor”.
The Zec secretariat — which is stuffed with intelligence and military-linked officials — has repeatedly been a contentious issue in the run-up to elections for many years as this tilts the electoral landscape in ruling party Zanu PF’s favour.
“The majority distrust Zec because of its perceived partiality. The majority rated Zec’s conduct of previous elections as very poor. An overwhelming majority (95%) of respondents is aware of Zec’s existence compared to only 27% who are aware of the existence of Zimbabwe Gender Commission (ZGC),” reads the report.
“Sixty-six percent have concerns about Zec’s lack of independence and 61% have some reservations about the manner in which the appointments of commissioners are done. With ZHRC, the numbers are significantly lower: 57% doubt its independence and 47% have concerns about the appointment of its commissioners.”
People (77%) interviewed felt Zec should not receive government funding through the Ministry of Justice and 73% felt the same for the ZHRC, giving reasons that receiving government funding through ministries to some extent compromises their independence.
“Instead, funding for constitutional commissions should be received directly from the Treasury. Ninety-one percent of respondents felt that the president of the country should not be involved in the appointment of Zec commissioners and 90% feel the same should apply to ZHRC commissioners.”
Respondents appeared more familiar with the human rights promotion duty of ZHRC, but 18% were not well-versed with the human rights body function of coordination and cooperation.
The report said: “Gathered from the study, since these commissions are there to support democracy, they must open up space for participation of the public. Respondents recommended that the ZHRC ought to adopt a human rights promotion programme, involve other stakeholders, since, so far the commission has not yet managed to penetrate and reach out to all due to a number of reasons. Now that people are losing faith in elections and are more concerned about issues of livelihoods, the onus lies on Zec to regain their confidence so as to avoid apathy and eliminate a growing perception that electoral processes do not make a difference.”
In an unprecedented move, Zec withheld the March 2008 presidential election results for five weeks, raising suspicions the results were rigged for a run-off.