Silaigwana's appointment as Zec chief elections officer slammed

HARARE - The appointment of Utoile Silaigwana as the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) acting chief elections officer has been described as another unfortunate incident which continues to put into doubt the credibility of Zec through acts of brazen militarisation.

Zec appointed Silaigwana as the acting chief elections officer while the hunt for a substantive office holder gets underway.

This comes after Zec cut ties with its chief elections officer Constance Chigwamba after she fell out of favour with commissioners at the electoral management body.

A former member of the Zimbabwe National Army (ZNA), Silaigwana was part of the 2008 Zec secretariat that withheld the March 2008 election results for close to a month.

He was first appointed to Zec when he was still a serving member of the ZNA and was thus among the people that led to the militarisation of Zec and eventually presided over the 2008 elections whose outcomes were heavily contested.

The Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition — a conglomeration of more than 80 civil society organisations in Zimbabwe working for democratic change — said Silaigwana’s image is tainted with accusations of election rigging and his latest appointment raises eyebrows on the credibility of the Zec secretariat and ultimately the credibility of the 2018 polls.

“It is becoming quite apparent that interim President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s promise of a free, fair and credible election is mere rhetoric.

“Silaigwana’s appointment comes after president Mnangagwa’s declaration that the bloody 2008 elections which resulted in the death of close to 300 opposition supporters were free and fair.

“To add on to this, Justice minister Ziyambi Ziyambi is on record saying there is no need for reforms ahead of the 2018 elections,” Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition spokesperson Tabani Moyo and acting director Thulani Mswelanto said in a joint statement yesterday.

The coalition drew the attention of the visiting Sadc Electoral Advisory Council (SEAC) — which is in the country on a week-long pre-election assessment — “to take note of crucial matters which might be a hindrance to free, fair and credible elections in Zimbabwe.”

“De-militarisation of Zec as well as ensuring that Zec secretariat is apolitical is critical to ensure free, fair and credible elections,” the statement said.

Efforts to get a comment from Silaigwana were futile yesterday.

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