New ZEC commissioners face uphill task

HARARE - The six Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) commissioners sworn in recently by President Robert Mugabe have been urged to adhere to the principles of election management such as independence, impartiality, integrity, transparency, efficiency, and professionalism and service-mindedness.

The appointment of new commissioners is line with Section 238 of the Constitution of Zimbabwe on the establishment and composition of Zec.

The commission is preparing for the 2018 harmonised elections and a number of crucial processes must be completed such as reviewing of voter education methodologies, the creation of a conducive electoral environment, as well as the adoption and implementation of a sound voter registration model.

It is therefore imperative for new and returning commissioners to ensure the legitimacy and credibility of the processes leading up to these impending elections.

The president selected three former commissioners who were eligible for re-appointment namely Joyce Kazembe, Daniel Chigaru and Sibongile Ndlovu.

The other three commissioners are Ngoni Kundidzora an academic, Netsai Mushonga a trainer on issues of development and women’s rights as well as Faith Sebata an educationist and a former Zec director of voter education.

Emmanuel Magede who was appointed as a commissioner in 2015 is now the deputy chairperson of Zec, a position which was previously held by Kazembe.

Zimbabwe Election Support Network (ZESN) director Rindai Chipfunde Vava said the conduct of the commissioners should enhance the integrity of Zec in the administration of electoral processes whose outcomes are acceptable to contesting political parties, interest groups and the electorate.

“It is important for the Election Management Body (EMB) to be independent from governmental, political and other partisan influences on their decisions. As a principle, impartiality can be enforced through behaviour, attitudes and engagement with all stakeholders.

“Impartiality is critical in establishment of integrity and credibility of electoral processes. The election management body is the primary guarantor of the integrity of the electoral processes in a manner that does not disenfranchise stakeholders,” Vava said.

ZESN calls for transparency in operational and financial management by Zec. “Transparency is vital to combat perceptions of electoral fraud, favouritism and other negative perceptions thereby enhancing the credibility of the commission.

“The principle of efficiency entails that electoral programmes are sustainable and cost-effective. In the design and implementation of election programmes and activities, election officials must be professional, well trained and apply themselves with accuracy, diligence and non-partisanship.

“Lastly, service-mindedness is a responsibility to stakeholders and a major reason for the existence of the commission. Therefore, adherence to service-mindedness in processes such as voter education, voter registration, results management is essential for success of the electoral processes.”

She added that ZESN reinforces its calls for the speedy alignment of electoral related laws with the Constitution for the creation of a conducive electoral environment.

“There is need for Zec to review electoral regulations to ensure efficient and effective administrative management of electoral processes.

“Zec must ensure that electoral processes that guarantee the full enjoyment of universal suffrage and credible elections such as voter registration and voter education are undertaken timeously. ZESN remains committed to the promotion of democratic elections in Zimbabwe.”

Human rights lawyer Dewa Mavhinga said Zimbabwe’s elections management body Zec, is an institution with a controversial history of failure to independently, professionally, and impartially run past elections, notably the 2008 elections.

“So the incoming Zec commissioners have the challenge of restoring public confidence, that they will be independent from Zanu PF and conduct credible, free and fair elections. Worse still, Mugabe has returned some characters like Kazembe who were part and parcel of the compromised and partial Zec of 2008. To restore public confidence the new Zec, commissioners must distance themselves from political influence, particularly by the ruling Zanu PF party. They must lead reforms to level the electoral field and ensure Zimbabweans to freely express themselves in elections,” Mavhinga said.

Election Resource Centre executive director Tawanda Chimhini said the newly-sworn in commissioners, together with the new deputy chair have a huge task ahead of them.

“The electoral terrain in Zimbabwe has remained marred in controversy emanating from a contested electoral legislative framework, an administrative framework that at times has been undefined and a political environment that is toxic and characterised by high levels of intolerance.

“The task ahead for the newly-set commission is one that must address long standing allegations of systemic electoral manipulation, fraud and malpractice. Election stakeholders, at least some of them, have very little confidence in elections and they continue to exhibit discontent such through boycotts and constant complaints at every turn. This must be addressed and cannot be ignored,” said Chimhini.

He added that young Zimbabweans, at least some of them have lost interest in elections and their voice is expressed through low turnout in voter registration drives.

“This too must be addressed and not ignored. The commissioners, as they take up their new mandate, must appreciate key principles and attributes expected of them, chief being transparency, accountability and professional conduct.

“Adhering to these attributes individually and as a collective will go a long way in building public confidence in our election processes. The commissioners must also appreciate that their new role is a public one which must be exposed to public scrutiny.

“Such scrutiny, both positive and negative, should be expected and embraced as it may contribute towards building a strong Zec that operates independently of executive and political interference,” said Chimhini.

ZimRights director Okay Machisa said the appointments of some of the commissioners who are from the previous team will likely see the commission recycling some of the problems that were affected them in the past.

“There are others appointed in the commission who are associated with a grey past and we hope they will not influence the new ones coming in. “But even though, they should know that as Zimbabweans we are in a different State and if votes are stolen or tampered with, they never know how the people would react,” said Machisa.

The ZimRights director warned the commissioners against listening and taking orders from the Executive. “The moment they dump their independence and be dictated to by the Executive, they should know that they would have dumped the people. They have to work as an independent commission.”

He added that as it is, the commissioners have been sworn in and as such they needed everyone’s support.

“We have to work together with those selected and it is upon them to uphold the principles of transparency.”

Political commentator Elliot Pfebve said it seems it is the same dead wood which has failed to run free and fair elections.

“For as long as the electoral laws are not harmonised, the aggregate is zero. We want democratisation of electoral systems that includes free access to the Voter’s Roll including a transparent registration process and cleaning up of dead people on the roll, equal access to media, unimpeded campaigns, a stop to targeting opposition politicians and their supporters and an end to the draconian laws like Posa and Aippa.”

A journalist who preferred to remain anonymous said the new commissioners take over a deeply mistrusted institution, viewed as arrogant and standing accused of aiding the rigging of elections on behalf of the ruling party.

“The re-appointment of Kazembe, a deeply polarised figure and open supporter of Zanu PF does not help matters. Restoration of trust should be their starting point.

“The best way to restore trust being implementation of electoral reforms as enshrined in the Constitution. Key among them being delivering of a clean Voters’ Roll to all contesting parties way before elections, preferably this year.”

Media practitioner Tabani Moyo said the issues at stake at the commission are issues of independence in administering elections.

“As long as there remains a hanging perception crisis that Zec is an extension of the polity, then it becomes a standing issue of bringing credibility to its door step.

“History has it that Zec has been staffed by the military and functionaries of the party, we therefore need to reclaim its credibility as a commission and set key deliverables which it should be held to account. I have always argued that Zimbabwean elections are not won through popular vote but through administration.

“The key task for the people of Zimbabwe is to exert pressure on the commission to be a credible administrative body like the ones running elections in Zambia, South Africa, Namibia etc.

“Its immediate role is to ensure that there is buy-in from all the stakeholders so that the outcome of the election is not disputed. Issues to do with the accessibility of the Voter’s Roll, the print of elections ballot, civic awareness and voter registration, to name but a few,” said Moyo.

MDC spokesperson Obert Gutu said Zec should immediately embark upon a rebranding exercise of the organisation.

“With due respect, the Zec is perceived as weak, biased, ill-equipped and poorly funded. As currently constituted, Zec is completely incapable of conducting free and fair elections that can pass the test of legitimacy. Zec is so poorly funded that they are operating as a mere appendage of the Justice ministry. Put bluntly, Zec lacks independence and integrity. The starting point should be to ensure that the Zec is adequately funded and that the commissioners are not only independent but are actually seen to be independent.

“The next thing to be done is to totally dismantle the Zec secretariat. The secretariat is packed with CIO agents and Zanu PF regime apologists. 2018 is not far away but still Zec is thoroughly ill-prepared and ill-equipped to run a legitimate plebiscite.”

Gutu added that the national Voters’ Roll is still in a shambles and talk of a new Biometric Voters’ Roll has just been mere talk lacking in both substance and seriousness.

“As MDC, we would like to call upon the UNDP and other development partners to urgently release the sum of about US$55 million that is required for Zec to conduct a fresh national biometric voter registration exercise.

The commissioners and the Zec secretariat have to be capacitated to enable them to be genuinely independent of any form of political manipulation.

“The Zec has to be vaccinated against Executive interference. As of now, we can forget about holding free and elections in 2018. The Zanu PF regime is already in top gear making preparations to rig the 2018 elections.”

Comments (1)

Forget about elections for the next 7 years until there is a genuinely independent ZEC.

Membathisi - 10 July 2016

Post a comment

Readers are kindly requested to refrain from using abusive, vulgar, racist, tribalistic, sexist, discriminatory and hurtful language when posting their comments on the Daily News website.
Those who transgress this civilised etiquette will be barred from contributing to our online discussions.
- Editor

Your email address will not be shared.