THE Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) — which badly damaged its reputation through partisan and incompetent performances in past elections — faces a serious credibility test as a new battleground for the general elections set for July 30.
Editor’s Memo,Dumisani Muleya
As the elections draw closer, it is becoming increasingly clear the new battlefield will be around Zec, currently under siege from skeptical stakeholders. Even if Zec has done some good work in registering 5,5 million voters under difficult circumstances and managed to organise logistics for elections, its previous record makes opposition parties and the public remain suspicious of it.
There is inherent public distrust in Zec as it is seen as an instrument of Zanu PF manipulation and rigging. Even opinion surveys say as much. The situation is not helped by its staffing profile which has an overdose of former security officers, mainly those with military backgrounds, known to be hardline Zanu PF loyalists.
The main issues of concern for opposition parties and civil society around Zec include the following: Biometric Voter Registration (BVR which captures unique physical features of voters — fingerprinting being the most commonly used); voters’ roll; printing of ballots; the number of excess ballots to be printed; the number of polling stations and sub-polling stations; and public media coverage of political parties.
The BVR system is new, hence fears it could be used for manipulation. The voters’ roll is always a moot point due to irregularities. Now there is also uproar over the printing of ballots. The opposition wants that to be transparent; to monitor procurement of material and the actual printing of the ballots. Besides, they want to monitor excess ballots printed for contingencies.
There is also anxiety over the number of polling stations. Furthermore, concerns are growing over sub-polling stations allegedly always used for ballot stuffing to help Zanu PF win through fraud. The other issue relates to equal access to the public media.
Yesterday the state broadcaster ZBC gave the MDC Alliance unprecedented live coverage of its election manifesto launch due to public pressure and the presence of foreign election observers to give a semblance of fairness.
ZBC, feigning a Damascene moment, is also trying to fix its battered image and buy credibility. Yet its unusual gesture was positive. In a bid to push for credible polls, Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition (CiZC) has intensified regional advocacy campaigns by engaging the Southern African Development Community (Sadc) organ on politics, defence and security to urgently look into the Zimbabwean situation ahead of the elections.
A CiZC delegation on May 30, 2018, held a meeting with the Sadc organ on politics, defence and security at the regional bloc’s headquarters in Gaborone, Botswana, to explain the current political and security situation in Zimbabwe and its implications on the credibility of the polls.
The delegation also submitted a letter to the Sadc organ on politics, defence and security director, Retired Lieutenant-Colonel Tanki Mothae, outlining civil society demands ahead of the polls.
In the letter, also copied to the Sadc executive secretary Stergomena Lawrence Tax, CiZC said Sadc should ensure Zimbabwe elections are held under conditions which meet the Sadc Principles and Guidelines Governing Democratic Elections.
The letter also explicitly says the current government in Zimbabwe, led by President Emmerson Mnangagwa, lacks legitimacy as it came in through a military coup last November.
Election Resource Centre director Tawanda Chimhini said yesterday at the launch of the non-governmental body’s elections reform barometer, although there has been an improvement in some of its operations, Zec should improve transparency and accountability ahead of elections.
In its latest research titled Biometric Voter Registration Observation Report, the Zimbabwe Election Support Network, a non-governmental organisation, said while Zec managed to register over five million voters through BVR, it has serious shortcomings.
All these issues bring to question Zec’s preparedness to run free, fair, transparent and credible elections on July 30. It’s facing a serious credibility test.