HomeOpinionEditor’s Memo: Zec: Abandon quasi-military edifices

Editor’s Memo: Zec: Abandon quasi-military edifices

BY BRIAN CHITEMBA

DEMOCRACY has several key principles, which include elected representative, rule of law, civil liberties and independent judiciary.

In a constitutional democracy like Zimbabwe, a legitimate government is elected by citizens under a harmonised electoral system — which brings together the presidential, parliamentary and council polls.

Democratic tenets demand that elections are held fairly.

Some call it a level playing field.

This is part of the role of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec), a body set in terms of Section 238 of the Constitution.

The composition of the electoral body has for long been under strong criticism amid concerns of militarisation. This certainly compromises the independence of the commission.

But with the coming of President Emmerson Mnangagwa in 2017 after toppling the late leader Robert Mugabe, new terms such as ‘new dispensation’ and ‘second republic’ presaged a fresh era of political activity.

However, questions have been raised over the continued quasi-military excesses.

Commandist approaches in some arms of the government are evident.

Zec is no exception.

This week, the electoral body, whose approval ratings by research organisations is significantly low, postponed mobile voter registration from December 6, 2021 to February next year.

Zec says the deferment “is meant to allow all eligible stakeholders to acquire national identity cards, which are requisite for voter registration.

The period initially slated for the voter registration exercise would have excluded some stakeholders without national identity cards”.

The reasons given by Zec for postponing mobile voter registration raise more questions.

The fact that the electoral body wants a grace period for undocumented citizens to acquire IDs in two months, suggests that the prospective voters will register in droves in February 2022.

This is simply irrational.

Zec should give a chance to those with IDs to register to vote in the 2023 elections.

In its statement, Zec says “the postponement will also give the civil registry enough time to prepare for issuance of identity documents to a large population within a specified period”.

How does Zec know that the ‘eligible stakeholders’ will register to vote in large numbers?

These are some of the reasons that erode public trust in the electoral body. Its history is tainted, anyway.

In the March 2008 presidential elections, Zec withheld results for five weeks. Electronic copies of the voters’ roll were not given to candidates in the 2013 elections.

The 2018 elections had hiccups. All this dents Zec’s reputation and the latest move to postpone mobile voter registration already raises suspicions ahead of the 2023 polls.

The voter registration process produces the voters’ roll — a key component of the electoral process. A clean voters’ roll is one of the instruments to measure the credibility of an election.

Hence, Zec should allow citizens to register to vote in the 2023 elections through the mobile voter registration processes without unnecessary delays.

A successful voter registration exercise will increase the number of total voter population which has been on a steady increase between 2008 and 2018, according to the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (Idea).

Idea states that in Zimbabwe, total voter population jumped from 42,37% in 2008 with 5,320,015 eligible voters to 54,38% in 2013, from a total voter age population of 5,696,780 to 86.84% in 2018 from a total voter population of 7,650,931.

The figure is expected to increase by 2023 if Zec allows an unhindered voter registration process.

Now is the time to fix the voters’ roll through registering to participate in the next elections. Over the years, there has been widespread complaints over the pre-voting and voting processes but Zimbabwe is a democracy that has come of age. Something has to give.

In his book, The Political Brain, scholar Drew Western notes that, “in politics, when reason and emotion collide, emotion invariably wins”.

This has been the case in Zimbabwean politics such as the irrational postponement of mobile voter registration by Zec in pursuit of partisan political exigencies. A transparent voter registration process is an ingredient to a free, fair and open elections; a key component of constitutional democracy.

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