ZANU PF hardliners and some top security chiefs have drawn daggers against Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) chairperson Rita Makarau whom they accuse of trying to introduce electoral reforms via the backdoor ahead of the crucial 2018 elections under the guise of a political parties’ dialogue platform.
Zanu PF is unwilling to implement electoral reforms meant to level the political playing field with some hardliners saying the ruling party is not ready to introduce a “vote-us-out law.”
Eighteen opposition parties working under the National Electoral Reform Agenda (Nera) banner have been advocating comprehensive electoral reforms as a precursor to free and fair elections.
Among other demands, the opposition parties are calling for the demilitarisation and total independence of Zec.
Top government sources this week said a report has been submitted to President Robert Mugabe which details Makarau’s meetings with all political parties that will contest in the 2018 elections where issues tabled for resolution are deemed unfavourable to Zanu PF.
Some Zanu PF hardliners believe the meetings undermine the ruling party.
“What Makarau has agreed to do is to reform Zec,” a source said, adding: “This is what Zanu PF has been resisting all along.”
Minutes of the fourth meeting held on December 5 last year between Zec and the political parties show that a cocktail of reforms was proposed to even the playing field in the 2018 elections.
According to the document seen by this paper, Makarau told the political parties that the constituency mapping exercise has been completed and awaiting verification which “will commence end of January 2017.”
Sources said the mapping exercise has been used by Zanu PF “to disenfranchise voters who are at times excluded from the voters’ roll.” Mapping has always been done secretly as one of Zanu PF’s methods of winning the election by hook or crook, critics claim.
The document also shows that the meeting proposed the formation of nine sub-committees which include mapping, voter registration, voter education, media and publicity, legal, political parties funding, accreditation, logistics as well as liaison committee.
According to the minutes, Makarau said “Zec was leaving it to the political parties to formulate the committees’ terms of reference.”
Other controversial proposals include “the removal of signing of proof-of-residence affidavits by kraal heads as the practice was perceived as invoking bias to vote for a given political party.”
Sources said this proposal deals a blow to Zanu PF which traditionally uses chiefs and traditional leaders to rally partisan support.
The political parties also say members of the security services, in particular the Central Intelligence Organisation, Zimbabwe Defence Forces and the Zimbabwe Republic Police operatives, should be barred from participating in any political activities or running of elections.
In previous elections, the security sector has played a critical role in propping up Mugabe’s regime. The military is credited with masterminding Zanu PF’s brutal 2008 presidential run-off poll campaign which saw Mugabe retain power after his fierce rival, MDC-T leader Morgan Tsvangirai, pulled out of the polls citing violence and intimidation.
Army personnel also took charge of Zanu PF primary elections in 2013 with some officers actively involved in drumming up support for the party by, among other tactics, engaging chiefs on its behalf.
Under Nera, the parties are also calling for the implementation of the diaspora vote and total compliance with all the provisions of Chapter 7 of the new constitution which deals with elections.
In an interview with this paper last week, Makarau said Zec understands the process as a genuine programme.
“We do not think the programme is meant to introduce any reforms,” she said. “We thought it was a genuine engagement with political actors and not a means to introduce any electoral reforms.”