Tempers flare over Zec composition

BULAWAYO - With just over a year before the 2018 election, there is still deep mistrust and concern over the operations and composition of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec).

This manifested at the Zimbabwe Election Support Network (Zesn) conference themed “Dialogue Towards Democratic Elections in Zimbabwe” in Bulawayo recently, where tempers flared over the role of Zec in the coming elections.

Participants from political parties and civic society raised grave concern over Zec’s personnel, which has been viewed as partisan.

The electoral stakeholders emphasised that Zec’s independence is critical in the management and conduct of elections, as the body played the key role of umpire in elections
They said the Rita Makarau-chaired electoral body must exercise its powers fairly and impartially, and treat each contestant equally, without fear or favour.

During deliberations, Zec’s acting chief elections officer, Utoile Silaigwana — a former military man himself — had a torrid time as opposition political parties and civic organisations took him to task over the institution’s operations and involvement of some ex-military personnel.
“I can feel the anger, anger about Zec,” Silaigwana said.

“Yes, I am a former military man, but I retired. Like any other Zimbabwean it is my democratic right to work elsewhere and it is not a crime that I once worked for the military,” he said.
“I agree that the past leadership has comprised former military men, but what I am telling you now is that there are no serving members of the military in Zec.”

MDC spokesperson Obert Gutu had his reservations that Silaigwana had actually resigned.

“That you have resigned, I am not sure. My problem is that there has been an unbroken military link between the military and Zec,” he said.

“It would not surprise me if you were to return to the army just like what former chief executive of the Electoral Supervisory Commission (ESC) who once came out on television announcing his retirement to join ESC only for him to revert to his military post,” Gutu said.
“But it is the credibility of Zec and its dark history of militarisation starting with Sobusa Gula-Ndebele, a retired army colonel, who was former chairman of ESC up to you, Silaigwana,” he said.

Silaigwana urged the stakeholders to work together with Zec and strike off all suspicions concerning the commission.
“We need to look forward and not look backward. Yes, Nyikayaramba was in ESC and so was Gula-Ndebele, but my question is whether they were appointed illegally.”

Political commentator Pedzisai Ruhanya said there was no problem in people being employed at Zec but “it is the professional conduct, as we continue to have in office personnel that have been commissioners in disputed past elections”.
“We have Joice Kazembe who has been a commissioner for decades. What is her interest because she has overseen all these disputed elections?” he queried.

Kazembe is Zec’s deputy chairperson, a position she held in the last Commission.
She served in the ESC from 2001 until its dissolution in 2005.

Critics of Zec’s performance argue that the reason for its biased and compromised performance is that it is essentially held captive by Zanu PF.
For example, through President Robert Mugabe, the ruling Zanu PF party had the power to appoint Commissioners while the government controlled the Commission’s finances.

In the past, its normal functions, like voter registration, were also outsourced to other bodies such as the Registrar-General’s Office, also severely criticised for its bias towards Zanu PF.
Critics are of the view that the appointment of Commissioners (and their removal from office) are critical factors in the determining the independence of the Commission.

Comments (1)

Of course the ZEC is going to be loaded in favour of ZANU PF - how many times do we have to go through all of this to realize that there is absolutely nothing fair or straight about this ZANU PF Government. It is for this precise reason that we need UN intervention right now.

Mbewa - 4 November 2016

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