Zim desperately needs credible elections

HARARE - Now that President Robert Mugabe has signed into law the Electoral Act we hope that other cogs crucial for ensuring a free and fair election will follow.

The Electoral Act that among other things sets a timeframe on poll results announcement as well as confront the violence scourge emblematic of the country’s troubled polls, especially after 2000, is one of the key highlights of an otherwise tepid Parliament and therefore should be supported and celebrated.

We hope with the new law, elections will be conducted in a conducive environment that will ensure voters express their choices without coercion and that the results will not  be disputed.

But a law does not work in isolation and needs to be augmented with a democratic constitution that will ultimately lead to the repeal of nefarious legislations such as the Public Order and Security Act (Posa) impinges on people’s freedoms of expression and assembly.

We have a Copac draft constitution which is not perfect since it was a negotiated document, but it is certainly better than the patchwork that the Lancaster House Constitution has become.

Zimbabweans should therefore rally behind this Copac draft and endorse it in a referendum that is likely to be held later this year before it is adopted.  

We hope the new Electoral Law will also be supported by the Human Rights Bill that is yet to be signed into law by Mugabe.

These enabling legislations are essential as Zimbabwe heads towards a make or break election that could be held next year.

Mugabe, who has publicly denounced violence, should ensure that Zimbabwe has sound institutions that are independent enough to police political parties that have for far too long played the big brother role overshadowing pseudo-democratic institutions.

The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec), the body charged with conducting elections and also disqualifying violent candidates, should be well financed to ensure it carries out its mandate with no constraints.

It is therefore the government’s responsibility to ensure, in the interests of democracy, institutions such as Zec are independent enough to perform their constitutional roles.

So a broke Zec is not in the interests of democracy in as much as accusations that it is staffed with members of the security sector.

We hope that staff at the Zec comprise of genuine civilians and not spies of any political party.

Time for consolidating the little that we have  achieved in the past three years is now and the Electoral Act is one such step in the right direction. - Staff Writer

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