HARARE - Opposition parties have demanded that the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) furnishes them with an electronic version of the voters’ roll before they can participate in by-elections pencilled for March.
President Robert Mugabe has proclaimed in the Government Gazette — March 27 as the date for the Mount Darwin West and Chirimanzu-Zibagwe by-elections.
The constituencies fell vacant following the re-appointment of Joice Mujuru, the Mt Darwin West lawmaker as vice president in 2013 and her subsequent replacement by Emmerson Mnangagwa, the Chirimanzu-Zibagwe MP last month.
Mugabe said aspiring candidates’ applications would be received by the Nomination Court when it sits on January 29 in terms of Section 46 of the Electoral Act (Chapter 2:13).
Major opposition parties have indicated they would boycott the elections if the voter register was not availed.
The Morgan Tsvangirai-led MDC said it would not legitimise electoral fraud by participating in the by-election without a voters’ roll.
“Our position is that we will not participate in any by-election as long as the conditions that we have been complaining about are still the same,” MDC spokesperson Obert Gutu said.
Gutu added that since the 2013 elections, his party has not had access to the electronic version of the voters’ roll despite several attempts to get it from Zec.
Apart from the voters’ roll, Gutu said other issues relating to the electoral environment such as access to the public media remained a cause for concern.
“We held our elective congress last year but the public media ignored it despite having invited them to cover, yet they went on to give wide coverage of the Zanu PF praise and worship congress,” he said.
“If Zec is going to make sure that all our concerns are addressed, then we are ready to participate and win the elections as we have always done. But without that, we will not take part in the circus”.
Jacob Mafume, the MDC renewal team spokesperson, said his party would not participate in sham elections.
“It is an abuse of the term election and we will not dignify that sham,” he said.
“It is a mockery, so, we will watch the tragi-comedy from a safe distance because we have had thousands of so-called elections that have benefited no-one but a cabal of individuals who are getting new cars and other perks.”
Another MDC outfit led by Welshman Ncube, however, said it would participate in the by-elections, arguing that boycotting would give Zanu PF a sense of invincibility.
While acknowledging that the contest would not be fair, Nhlanhla Dube, the party’s spokesperson, expressed fear that the ruling party would continue to bully them and monopolise political space knowing they would not be challenged through an election.
“We will never give Zanu PF space to breathe, so we remain committed to contesting every election even if we are aware that it gives the regime another opportunity to Nikuv,” Dube said.
Nikuv is an Israeli IT firm accused by the opposition of rigging the 2013 poll, although the organisation has rubbished the allegations.
Dube also complained that the voters’ roll remained “in the hands of Zanu PF functionaries.” He likened it to “participating in a 200m race with Usain Bolt with your legs tied together.”
This comes as Zapu leader Dumiso Dabengwa has taken Zec to court for failing to furnish the opposition party with a copy of the electronic voters’ roll.
Dabengwa accused the electoral body and the Registrar General’s (RG) office of conniving to deny him the voter register.
He argued that the voters’ roll must be availed in line with Section 21, Subsection 6(a) of the Electoral Act which states that: “Within a reasonable period of time after nomination day, the commission (Zec) shall provide free of charge, to every nominated candidate, one copy in electronic form, of the constituency voters’ roll to be used in the election for which the candidate has been nominated.”