HARARE – The strained relationship between the country’s distrustful opposition and the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) sank to an all-time low yesterday when the parties called for the immediate resignation of its chairperson, Rita Makarau, as well as the disbandment of the elections management body itself.
The call came after Makarau stormed out of a heated meeting with the opposition to discuss much-needed electoral reforms and the planned procurement of biometric voter registration (BVR) kits ahead of the make-or-break 2018 national elections.
The usually calm Makarau blew a gasket after she was incensed by myriad allegations that were thrown her way by opposition parties coalescing under the banner of the National Electoral Reform Agenda (Nera) — which she in turn accused of denigrating her and engaging in negotiations via the media.
“Because we are beginning to feel that our engagements are misunderstood, we believe it is time for Zec to go back to the drawing board and see how best we can engage with you.
“This platform is not working and accordingly there will be no meeting today,” Makarau told stunned opposition officials who had turned out for the meeting in Harare called by Zec.
“You thought we had called you to intimidate you not into demonstrating. We want to give you our assurances that we have not called you to intimidate you from doing anything. We called you to dialogue, but you do not want to dialogue with us in good faith.
“This meeting is aborted and I am asking everybody within Zec to please follow me outside,” Makarau said before walking out of her meeting.
The gathering temporarily degenerated into chaos as the opposition unsuccessfully tried to prevent her and her team from leaving.
Subsequently, the parties sent members of the steering committee to Makarau’s office to try and reason with her, where more drama ensued.
As the members of the steering committee were negotiating with her, some opposition parties drew up resolutions which included calling for the disbandment of Zec and the resignation of Makarau.
Zimbabwe People First (ZPF) senior official, Kudakwashe Bhasikiti, expressed his dismay to the Daily News about the way the lead-up to 2018 was happening.
“We have reflected thoroughly. Zec is not genuine in dealing with us. We are dancing to Makarau’s tune.
“All our discussions are subject to Makarau’s conditions. We no longer want this rhetoric and diplomacy tactics being played by Makarau.
“We are declaring a stalemate and an electoral crisis. We don’t want Zec being led by Makarau. They (Zec) have no capacity to lead,” the fuming Bhasikiti said.
Another opposition official, Clemence Tabatapashi Nhliziyo of the Democratic Assembly for Restoration and Empowerment (Dare), also expressed his disappointment at Makarau’s decision to call off yesterday’s meeting.
“Our role as stakeholders is to make sure there is a free, fair and credible election in 2018. In that pursuance, we can never abdicate our constitutional right to demand an independent and professional Zec.
“Zec did not walk away from Zanu PF interference with the BVR procurement system, but tacitly complied with a Zanu PF directive.
“It must be beyond any doubt that the government of Zimbabwe, as presently constituted by Zanu PF, cannot be allowed to impose a roadmap to the 2018 elections.
“We were prepared to engage Zec in the political parties’ dialogue platform of the proposed committees and we are aware that Zanu PF has forced … Makarau to abort the engagement through today’s stage-managed walkout.
“We cannot be stopped and in fact Zec has only but exposed itself as a Zanu PF front,” Nhliziyo said.
Yesterday’s meeting had been called by Zec to try and heal the rift caused by the government’s sidelining of the UNDP in the procurement of the BVR kits.
The opposition has alleged that the government is hijacking the process to rig next year’s eagerly-anticipated national elections.