Opposition takes aim at Zec

HARARE - Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) chairperson Rita Makarau has become embroiled in a row with opposition parties and civil society groups after conceding that in the absence of reforms to prevailing laws governing polls, she was powerless to effectively deal with electoral malpractices.

The opposition parties are not happy with Makarau’s continued role at Zec as its chairperson while holding another position at the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) where she is employed full-time.

During an interaction meeting with the media last week, Makarau said the country’s electoral laws were so weak that they disempowered her to deal adequately with issues such as media bias, violence and vote-buying, citing an example of how the commission could not deal with the violence which marred the Norton by-election last month.

MDC spokesperson Obert Gutu said Makarau’s remarks showed Zec is “damaged goods.”

“They are completely and absolutely incapable of running an election that can pass the test of legitimacy, an election that is free and fair,” Gutu told the Daily News On Sunday.

“If Zec could sincerely and honestly utilise all the powers that they are granted by the Constitution, then the problem of contested elections would be history.”

Opposition political parties have been clamouring for electoral reforms, which they insist will ensure a dispute-free election. They also called for the disbanding of Zec, claiming it is controlled by Zanu PF.

Zanu PF officials have vowed that opposition political parties will never get the electoral reforms they are clamouring for, contemptuously saying they will not reform themselves out of power.

Local poll watchdog, Election Resource Centre (ERC), said measures must be taken to ensure Zec fulfils its constitutional mandate.

“Zec must summon and caution political parties and candidates engaging in behaviour which compromises the freeness and fairness of elections,” ERC director Tawanda Chimhini said.

“Zec must publicly instruct the Zimbabwe Republic Police to take action against perpetrators of election-related violence and intimidation and encourage the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission to effect the functionality of the special investigative committee in line with Section 133 (h) of the Electoral Act.”

Chimhini said while Section 157(4) of the Constitution mandates Zec to participate in law making by way of being consulted, “the same provision does not take away Zec’s responsibility to publicly initiate electoral laws that reduce election-related violence and intimidation.”

Last week, Makarau told the media that without amendments to the Electoral Act, Zimbabweans living outside the country would need to come back home, first to register, before they can cast their vote on polling day.

“That can only happen once our laws are clear about that but at the moment we don’t have a law providing for that mechanism so until there is that legal framework governing the Diaspora vote, people in the Diaspora will not be able to vote where they currently reside unless they come to Zimbabwe and vote,” she told journalists.

Makarau said those living in the Diaspora  would also need to physically avail themselves to register under the new biometric voter registration exercise which requires their pictures, fingerprints and addresses in line with the polling station-based registration system.

She also said all government staff working outside and at Zimbabwean embassies would have to return home and present their bio-metrics to Zec for them to be able to vote.

The People’s Democratic Party (PDP) said Zec were merely making excuses for failing to run elections.

“Elections are the most important issue in the country and instead of them making excuses, they must be outlining all efforts, which must be seen, that they are making in terms of implementing electoral laws,” PDP spokesperson Jacob Mafume told the Daily News On Sunday.

“If they find that their offices are straitjackets, they must leave and let suitable people take over. This country has been swamped by people who give excuses on why they must not serve the people properly.”

Opposition parties coalescing under the banner of the National Electoral Reform Agenda (Nera) are demanding sweeping reforms at Zec ahead of the eagerly-anticipated 2018 national elections.

They want the Zec secretariat to be reconstituted arguing that in its current form, it will be biased towards President Robert Mugabe and Zanu PF.

Opposition parties accuse Zec of aiding Mugabe and Zanu PF in the 2008 and 2013 polls.

In 2008, Zec withheld the results of the presidential election for six weeks — leading to suggestions that it was manipulating the ballot.

Mugabe lost to Tsvangirai who failed to gather an outright victory — forcing a presidential runoff in which the MDC leader pulled from days before voting citing massive intimidation against his supporters.

In the 2013 elections, African monitors broadly approved the conduct of the election after Zec declared a landslide win for Mugabe and his Zanu PF party, giving Africa’s oldest president five more years at the helm of a nation he has ruled for 36 years now.

The nonagenarian’s main rival, MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai, challenged the results in court alleging massive vote-rigging, irregularities and intimidation.

Meanwhile, the opposition parties maintain that Makarau must either relinquish her role at Zec or JSC to avoid conflict of interest.

Gutu said Makarau’s position is compromised considering that she is Zec chairperson, while at the same time she is the JSC secretary.

“…the Zec chairperson should choose whether or not she would like to remain as Zec chair or she would like to retain her positions as a Supreme Court judge and secretary of the JSC.

“It is against the dictates of good corporate governance and international best practice for her to hold all these positions simultaneously.

“Certainly, Zimbabwe doesn’t have a shortage of suitably qualified and experienced people who can be appointed to take up all these posts that…Makarau is currently occupying,” Gutu said.

But Makarau on Tuesday said she will continue in both roles.

“I do not see the conflict of interest being talked about. If I had seen that conflict, believe me, I would have stepped down… I do not believe that I am compromised and will not step down because I do not see the compromise,” she told journalists.

Comments (1)

Is it horrible Rita Makarau is a Zanu-PF CIO operative. it is an open secret. Humusvitswage.

Mbareboy - 22 November 2016

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