Election schedule tight: Zec boss

HARARE - The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) is in a race against time as it battles to beat the July 31 deadline imposed by the Constitutional Court last week, Zec admitted yesterday.

Speaking to the Daily News after a consultative meeting with the media, Zec chairperson Justice Rita Makarau said although the body that is in charge of conducting electoral processes in the country is ready for the watershed elections if dates for elections are proclaimed, it has a “tight schedule” in terms of administration.

Zec has to clean up a shambolic voters’ roll and supervise the 30-day mobile voter registration exercise.

The Constitutional Court ruled that President Robert Mugabe calls for elections immediately after the dissolution of Parliament whose term expires on June 29.

The Constitutional Court verdict has invoked anger in some quarters, with some legal experts saying the time-frame given in the judgment is impractical and quashes the rights of Zimbabweans to partake in the important national event.

Makarau said legally, there was nothing that stands in the way of the  July 31 polls, as the period between the the proclamation of dates, the seating of the Nomination Court and the actual polling dates would fit in the available time frame between now and July 31.

The former Supreme Court judge said a minimum of 44 days is all that Zec needs to hold elections but stressed the fact that in terms of administration, it will be difficult.

“Once there is proclamation if the President declares poll dates, then we would be ready because we are governed by the legal time frame. Although this can be achieved, it will be a tight schedule because we don’t know when the president is going to announce the dates,” she said.

A 30-day mandatory voter registration blitz is yet to kick-start with Zec yesterday vaguely saying the process would start soon.

With the government still to secure funding for polls in order to buy materials like indelible ink, ballot boxes, ballots and put in place necessary logistics, analysts said elections if they are held before July 31, would make it difficult for candidates to campaign.

Makarau yesterday admitted that the cash-strapped body that has received $20 million for a fresh mobile voter registration blitz, is concerned with the state of the voters’ roll, promising to ensure that every Zimbabwean eligible to vote will exercise his right.

“We want everybody to participate in the elections and we don’t want to attack the system but we need to provide remedies. We want to give people back their rights to vote,” said Makarau.

“Give us evidence of the state of the voters’ roll and we will clean it for you. It is trite that a credible electoral process begins with a credible votes’ roll which is acceptable to all stakeholders.”

Some civic rights organisations allege that the voters’ roll is in shambles and after a chaotic three week mobile voter registration exercise, MDC formations in the unity government were fuming against the Registrar of Voters, Tobaiwa Mudede, whom they say is incompetent.

Mudede and Makarau are expected to meet Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai to give a heads-up on the state of preparedness.

Makarau admitted that the voters’ roll is not in the best shape.

 “The commission is concerned that the voters’ roll may not be in the shape it ought to be in before the harmonised elections,” she said.

“In particular, the commission is concerned that people who lawfully registered as voters in a particular ward may have found their names removed from the roll of that ward without their knowledge.

“It is on the basis of this grave concern that Zec is calling upon each and every one of the registered voters to inspect the voters’ roll during the 30 day voter registration exercise,” she said.

Apart from dealing with a voter registration exercise, the commission, under the Electoral Act which is yet to be aligned with the new constitution, also has to ensure that postal voting for Zimbabweans in foreign countries on government business takes place as well as ensure that the disciplined forces also exercise their rights to vote two weeks before the actual polling date.

Tsvangirai, whose party has grudgingly accepted the Constitutional Court ruling, says he is going to take the issue of poll dates to the impending Sadc Extraordinary Conference in Maputo that will among other things deliberate on poll funding as well as the implementation of the Global Political Agreement (GPA), the basis of the coalition government.

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