Nera confronts Mugabe over Zec

A GROUPING of opposition political parties fighting for electoral reforms in the country — Zimbabwe National Electoral Reform Agenda (Nera) — has demanded the disbandment of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec), arguing that the electoral body’s secretariat is biased and packed with securocrats.

BY WONGAI ZHANGAZHA

In a letter dated April 4, Nera chairperson Farai Mbira, who is also president of Zimbabweans United for Democracy Party (Zunde), told President Robert Mugabe that Zec has failed to institutionally renew itself to be an impartial and independent electoral management body.

Nera said Zec is failing to abide by the constitution.

According to Section 233 of the constitution, objectives of independent commissions are to support and entrench human rights and democracy, to promote constitutionalism, to secure the observance of democratic values and principles by the state and all institutions and agencies of government and state-controlled entities, to ensure that all injustices are remedied and to promote transparency and accountability in public institutions.

Nera comprises 13 opposition political parties, whose main agenda is to fight for electoral reforms that will ensure free, fair and credible elections, “whose results would reflect the true preferences of the Zimbabwean voters in all the elections in Zimbabwe”.

According to sources in Nera, the Office of the President and Cabinet confirmed receipt of the letter on Monday.

“Besides seemingly condoning electoral malpractices in specific by-elections, the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission has failed to institutionally renew itself to be an impartial and independent electoral management body. The main complaint centres on the militarisation of the Zec secretariat,” reads the Nera letter. “You no doubt know Mr President that members of the security services make a significant portion of the secretariat at Zec. This is undesirable in view of the notorious statement by service chiefs that they are not prepared to salute a president without liberation war credentials even if he/she was to be the popular choice of the Zimbabwean people.

“Time and time again security officers have been introduced as part of Zanu PF at rallies. The most significant was when Zimbabwe Defence Forces commander General (Constantino) Chiwenga was introduced by Vice-President (Emmerson) Mnangagwa as a Zanu PF political commissar during the by-election in Chirumhanzu-Zibagwe a few months ago.”

Nera complained to Mugabe that Zec did not utter a word of censure against “this clearly unconstitutional behaviour on the part of Mnangagwa and the army, breaching Section 236(1) of the constitution”.

Section 236(1) states that members of the commission must not act in a partisan manner, further the interests of a political party or cause, prejudice the interests of a political party or cause and violate fundamental rights and freedoms.

Nera told Mugabe that Zec, headed by Justice Rita Makarau, had failed to ensure free and fair electoral process in the country.

“Over the past few months the commission has presided over a number of by-elections in Zimbabwe since 2013. However, these by-elections have been characterised by violence, intimidation, bribery and the abuse of social welfare for electoral purposes by Zanu PF, and an opaque voter registration system,” wrote Mbira. “They also have been characterised by the abuse of traditional leaders, as well as security services in the electoral process in spite of the clear constitutional provisions proscribing the involvement of these institutions in the electoral processes. The report by the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission after the Hurungwe West by-election sums very well these electoral malpractices.”

Nera also cited the Norton by-election, where Zanu PF promised residential stands in return for votes, describing the action as “the locus clasicus of vote-buying”.

Nera also said in the Chimanimani, Bikita and Mwenezi by-elections, opposition supporters were denied food aid.
The opposition National Constitutional Assembly candidate for Bikita, Maddock Chivasa, was severely assaulted while carrying out his campaign.

“In all the incidents cited above, the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission was conspicuous by its silence. It is our belief that a commission that is truly impartial must have denounced the electoral malpractices at the very least. That they did nothing about these incidents should worry everyone not least you as the head of state,” Mbira says.

Nera said they doubted that Zec, with its “behaviour”, will be capable of presiding over a free and fair election next year between August 12 and September 12, when the elections constitutionally become due.

Zec was also accused of failing to work well with stakeholders and one of examples cited include utterances by Makarau on March 22 that Zec was disengaging from the continuous dialogue with the political parties and other stakeholders.