THE recent confusion around the voters’ roll inspection, coupled with a cocktail of concerns from the electorate, has underscored concerns that the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) has no capacity to manage a free and fair election.
This comes as President Emmerson Mnangagwa is expected to announce the much-anticipated dates for this year’s national elections, setting in motion intense debate on whether Zec will be able to deliver a credible plebiscite.
The announcement of election dates sets the stage for what is billed to be a gruelling battle against his opponent, Nelson Chamisa, leader of the Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC).
In 2018, Mnangagwa’s slander victory against Chamisa was upheld by the Constitutional Court (ConCourt).
But the opposition leader accused Zec of vote rigging in favour of the incumbent.
It also accused Zec of failing to avail the voters’ roll to contestants.
This week, social media was flooded by concerns around the voters’ roll inspection exercise, which saw some people missing their names, while some voters’ names appeared in wrong constituencies.
The confusion has put Zec under the spotlight.
- Chamisa party defiant after ban
- Village Rhapsody: How Zimbabwe can improve governance
- News in depth: Partisan police force persecutes opposition, shields Zanu PF rogue elements
- Chamisa chilling death threat bishop defiant
Zec has pegged the voters’ roll at US$187 000, something which has sparked criticism from the opposition.
Social and political commentator, Reason Mbofana said Zec would have failed to deliver an elementary requirement necessary for staging a free and fair election by failing to avail the voters’ roll.
“First and foremost, Zec has to urgently address the voters’ roll issue. According to our electoral laws, this important document has to be readily availed to all relevant stakeholders,” Mbofana argued.
“In any democracy, the authenticity and public confidence in the voters’ roll determines the legitimacy of an election. Therefore, as long as there is continued controversy surrounding this document, our elections will always be disputed,” he said.
Political analyst Rashweat Mukundu added that the issue of the voters’ roll compromised Zec’s capability to stage a free and fair election.
“Zec has not done enough to address issues around access to the voters’ roll. What we essentially see is that Zec is working in cahoots with Zanu PF to avail the party of the voters’ roll. No one knows the extent of this collusion,” Mukundu said.
Prior to the impending elections, Zec had been embroiled in a scandal regarding how it conducted the delimitation report, which eventually spilt into the courts.
Following the presentation of the preliminary delimitation report by Zec chairperson Priscilla Chigumba to Mnangagwa in December, the electoral management body came under fire for allegedly gerrymandering boundaries in favour of his ruling party Zanu PF, among other shortcomings.
The criticism led to a lawsuit filed by MDC Alliance leader Douglas Mwonzora in April at the Constitutional Court (ConCourt) contesting the legality of the delimitation report, which was widely criticised by the country’s civic society.
Mwonzora sought the ConCourt to declare the report as invalid, compel Zec to re-do the boundary demarcation exercise and bar the President from proclaiming election dates based on the “flawed” report.
Last month, a full ConCourt bench led by Chief Justice Luke Malaba threw out Mwonzora’s application seeking the postponement of the elections until delimitation is re-done, citing that the application lacked “jurisdiction”.
University of London professor of World Politics Steve Chan said the credibility of this year’s polls hangs in the balance.
“Everything is up in the air right now about the credibility of the elections. What Zec has to do is simple, and that is to allow the chairs of international observer groups into the electronic tabulation centre throughout the count and for them to observe all Zec deliberations at this time,” Chan said.
As Zimbabwe goes to the polls, Zec has come under the spotlight for being infiltrated by Forever Associates of Zimbabwe (Faz) — a shadowy group linked to the Central Intelligence Organisation.
Faz, as the military in the past, is being criticised of being a Zanu PF tool to subvert the will of the majority.
With the voter inspection exercise underway, the shadowy group has been criticised for tampering with the voters’ roll.
There have been cases of registered voters missing from the roll, raising the spectre of yet another disputed poll.
Fitch Solutions a US-based global advisory and credit rating agency in its latest report has indicated that a vicious clampdown against the opposition and civic society by the government, will among other reasons, gift Mnangagwa with victory at the polls.
“At Fitch Solutions, we believe that the incumbent President Emmerson Mnangagwa and his Zanu PF party will win the upcoming general elections due to be held by August 2023.
“Finally, we think that the Zanu PF will likely adopt coercive behaviour to discourage citizens from voting for the CCC. We believe that domestic insecurity will increase in the run-up to and aftermath of the elections,” Fitch Solutions pointed out.