HARARE – Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) should share with stakeholders its roadmap for the 2018 harmonised elections which should be anchored on the principles of accountability, honesty and integrity.
Zec announced recently that it had finalised its 2018 harmonised elections roadmap, and plans to come up with a ‘perfect’ voters’ roll between April and December 2017 time which it will also demarcate polling station maps.
Zec Chairperson Justice Rita Makarau told local media that a Zec-appointed technical committee is already assessing 12 potential biometric voter-registration kit suppliers and will shortlist three of them in the next two weeks.
Zimbabwe Election Support Network executive director Rindai Chifunde Vava said ZEC should shed more light on the details of roadmap, the actual processes that will be taking place at each stage to enable stakeholders to prepare adequately.
“It should engage stakeholders forthwith and ensure that the process is clearly understood and that every eligible voters in Zimbabwe get correct information and voter education about the BVR process,” said Vava.
She added that her orgnisation reiterates their call for adequate resourcing of ZEC to ensure that this process is not jeopardized by lack of resources.
MDC spokesperson Obert Gutu said ZEC should always engage all major stakeholders, particularly political parties, in all preparations for the 2018 elections.
“As it is, the reputation of ZEC among various stakeholders is not very good because there is a lot of suspicion and mistrust.
“The roadmap to the 2018 elections must be transparent and it should also be anchored on the principles of accountability, honesty and integrity.”
Gutu said the MDC, together with other opposition political parties, has been actively engaging Zec on all its plans in the build up to the 2018 elections and “we sincerely hope and trust that Zec will act honourably and truthfully and that the Zec secretariat will not be controlled and manipulated by some shadowy forces based at Chaminuka and Munhumutapa buildings in Harare.”
Legislator Jessie Majome said: “Zec must get the money needed for elections quickly, transparently and with integrity. It must also work extremely hard to do all it takes to gain the confidence of stakeholders outside the establishment.
“This is a Herculean task which includes effecting the political reforms needed for a free and fair election. It must stop sounding like an apologist for and accomplice of the incumbent regime. Zec must demonstrate a will of reforms and universal franchise.
“I was recently horrified to hear it saying the only way to effect the diaspora vote is to create local authority wards there which is a pack of nonsense. It simply needs to set up polling facilities and ‘post’ the resultant votes to the relevant wards.”
She added that Zec is yet to issue its recommendations and regulations on e.g. media and political meetings control reforms.
Social commentator Rashweat Mukundu said Zec has no public credibility in management of elections so it will be good if it can publicise its roadmap.
“The challenge is Zec operates on the basis of accounting to those in power and not the people of Zimbabwe who have suffered and loathe elections which have only brought misery and death,” said Mukundu.
Election Resource Centre (ERC) director Tawanda Chimhini said his organisation welcomes indications that Zec has now completed its roadmap to the 2018 elections.
“Early planning for elections is an essential prerogative for the holding of successful elections. We would have hoped that this roadmap would have been prepared much earlier to allow for exhaustive oversight of all election related processes as part of entrenching transparency in managing elections.
“It would also have been crucial for Zec to share the roadmap with stakeholders in a more formal channel such as the engagement platforms being hosted by ZEC and supported by development partners that have so far been useful in terms of information sharing,” said Chimhini.
Based on the reported roadmap, the ERC recognises the conviction shared by the Chairperson of the ZEC in anticipating cleaner voters’ roll for the 2018 elections.
“In pursuit of this noted conviction, the ERC urges ZEC to urgently engage with Parliament to ensure that the currently under debate, 2017 national budget, be sent back to the Ministry of Finance to guarantee that the 2018 election is adequately budgeted for.
“Waiting for budget support for the elections after the budget has been approved or in the 2018 budget will be inconsequential given that the foundation of the credibility, freeness and fairness of 2018 has to be finalised now.
“The heaviest costs for elections are in the preparations and not the polling day processes and ensuring adequate support for elections now contributes to ensuring credible, free and fair election processes,” said Chimhini.
He added that the seriousness of ZEC to deliver a credible election next year will be partially measured in terms of its assertiveness in ensuring and guaranteeing to Zimbabweans that it is well resourced and prepared to conduct a constitutional election that meets our own standards, SADC, African Union and international expectations.
“Such assertiveness must be shown in how ZEC independently plans its work, requests and accesses state resources and shows initiative in departing from the past where election resources are not fully budgeted for and transparently disbursed.”
ZimRights director Okay Machisa said: “The initiative taken by Zec to announce a roadmap to the 2018 elections is welcome because it allows stakeholders to also trace and help in the achievement of the various milestone of that roadmap.
“However, it is worrying that the roadmap appears to be just focused on the technicalities of implementing the biometric system without addressing issues of the electoral environment.”
Machisa added that electoral malpractices that could greatly affect the freeness and fairness of the elections such as intimidation, abuse of state media, vote-buying, and use of traditional leaders should actually be part of what the roadmap addresses
Political activist Tabani Moyo said it is one thing for the regulatory body to claim readiness and another for the country to be ready.
“As you know various stakeholders are still not happy with numerous issues ranging from the administration of the election themselves and the electoral environment which remains tilted in favor of the ruling party.
“The country can be said to be ready for an election when there is consensus on the transparency of the process, starting with procurement of electoral requirements, storage of the ballot materials, approach towards the administration of the election and the nefarious laws that hinders free expression, association and movement are addressed.
“So the pronouncements I guess are an act of public relations and perceptions management rather than addressing the hard questions that are being raised by the political parties, CSOs and the media. Going forward, ZEC must disentangle itself from the armpits of the ruling party towards being an independent administrator of credible elections,” said Moyo.