OPPOSITION coalition MDC Alliance has threatened to boycott the July 30 general elections if its demands for electoral reforms are disregarded by the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec).
By Wongai Zhangazha
The spectre of an election boycott was raised by the chief election agent of MDC Alliance presidential candidate Nelson Chamisa, Jameson Timba, yesterday after he successfully filed Chamisa’s nomination papers at the High Court.
Timba said while the MDC Alliance has expressed its intention to participate in a free and fair election, in line with the right to freedom of association, the opposition is not happy with how Zec had failed to avail the voters’ roll prior to the date of the nomination court. The High Court yesterday ordered Zec to release the voters’ roll.
He described Zec chairperson Priscilla Chigumba’s response to the MDC Alliance petition as “excuses” that are “unacceptable”.
“It is very sad that up to the day of the nomination court Zec has not released the voters’ roll which should have been availed to all political parties prior to the nomination court. Our issues still stand. We want a credible voters’ roll, an audit of the voters’ roll. We want to know who is printing the ballot paper, where is it being printed, we want to be able to physically see that. That does not require an Electoral Act to allow us that but this answers to issues of transparency. It does not require the amendment of any law,” Timba said.
“We want to know who is looking after this ballot paper after being printed. We want to know the quantity of the ballot paper. We should not forget what former Nigerian president (Olusegun) Obasanjo once highlighted during the 2013 elections that Zimbabwe ballot papers were unprecedented. What will happen to all the excess ballot papers? We want to know that. Our president (Chamisa) said if these demands are not met there will be no election. Don’t underestimate his resolve and capacity to follow through this threat. We have always said Zec is not an independent body.”
MDC-T secretary-general Douglas Mwonzora, speaking at the High Court, also mentioned the possibility of an election boycott as a last resort.
“Boycotting the election is a political possibility, but it is the last resort. Given the pain Zimbabweans gave gone through, we are preparing for the election. The main issue for us is that we have not been availed the voters’ roll up to this point in time. It will have been prudent to have the voters’ roll given before nomination,” Mwonzora said.
“Zec said it is going to give us the voters’ roll after nomination. So far everything else has gone well, but it’s too early to say the process has gone well in other parts. We have received reports that other people’s signatures are not reflecting in other centres, for example in Chitungwiza, but we are rectifying that. We are hoping the whole process will be good and that there won’t be too many presidential election candidates because it will be a bloated ballot. We also hope that Zec sticks to what is fair, that is to start the ballot by the surname, not to start the ballot by the first name, in order to suit certain candidates. We are filing under MDC Alliance and the symbol is an open palm with Chamisa’s face and Khupe’s MDC-T has a child’s face. This is sufficient information to the voters.”
President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s papers were filed by Justice minister Ziyambi Ziyambi who applauded Zimbabwe for opening up the democratic space.
“The filing of different candidates just shows that Zimbabwe has opened up the democratic space and people are freely expressing themselves. Everyone is excited and feel they can enter the race and contest, which is good. In any democracy you should allow people to freely express themselves,” Ziyambi said.
MDC-T president Thokozani Khupe’s nomination papers were filed by her chief election agent Priscilla Misihairabwi-Mushonga who said she was happy with the processes at the nomination court. However, she called for equal access to the media.
“We would love to have access to the media. We want ZBC to cover more political parties and not necessarily one or two political parties. We need to broaden the media. We also want access to the voters’ roll. This is the first time we have had credible women presidential candidates coming to stand up in the elections. This thing of calling women who participate in elections ‘hure’ has to stop. The abuse of women has to stop,” Misihairabwi-Mushonga said while wearing a red sweater emblazoned “hure #me too”.
United Democratic Movement president Violet Mariyacha, who successfully filed her papers, declared that she was going to be the next president of Zimbabwe.
Former vice-president Joice Mujuru filed her papers under the People’s Rainbow Coalition, while National Constitutional Assembly president Lovemore Madhuku, Alliance for People’s Agenda (APA) were some of the prominent people who filed papers yesterday.
Other presidential candidates who successfully filed their papers include Everisto Chikanga of Rebuilding Zimbabwe party, Mapfumo Peter Gava of the United Democratic Front, Build Zimbabwe president Noah Manyika, William Mugadza of the Bethel Christian Party and Blessing Kasiyamhuru of Zimbabwe Partnership for Prosperity.
Devine Hove of the Nationalistic Alliance of Patriotic and Democratic Zimbabweans and Kwanele Hlabangana are other presidential candidates.