Rigging fears

HARARE - There are unmistakable signs that results of the forthcoming general elections could be contested once again after Zanu PF’s rivals raised alarm over the ruling party’s refusal to allow key aspects of the electoral process to be done openly to remove rigging fears, the Daily News can report.

This follows Zanu PF’s total rejection, on Tuesday, of proposals to legislate for an open tender system for the procurement of ballot papers, as part of amendments to the Electoral Act.

Amid fears of vote manipulation, the main MDC party — through its chief whip Innocent Gonese — had tabled before Parliament proposals that sought to diffuse suspicions hobbling Zimbabwe’s electoral processes.

Zimbabwe endured a long history of disputed poll outcomes under former president Robert Mugabe which wrecked its agro-based economy, weighed down by massive unemployment and widespread poverty.

While the new government of President Emmerson Mnangagwa has promised to deliver free and fair polls, its rivals are not convinced.

Critically, they want all stakeholders in the electoral processes to be up to speed with the procurement of voting material to avoid situations where the ballot could be tampered with.

Of particular interest, they want to know the company printing the ballot papers and the providers of the indelible ink, and that those partaking in these processes are selected through an open tender.

These proposals were shot down by Zanu PF, which enjoys an absolute majority in the National Assembly, when they were brought to Parliament by Gonese on Tuesday.

Gonese had argued that the procurement of election-related material should go through tender but Justice minister and leader of government business in the House, Ziyambi Ziyambi, rebuffed this.

Ziyambi said the MDC’s proposals were covered by a separate legislation, hence they fall outside the ambit of the Electoral Act, which was the subject of debate.

“I reject that. It is covered by the Procurement Act. We cannot talk of another law that deviates from an existing law. This provision is problematic to accept,” said Ziyambi.

Yesterday, Zanu PF’s rivals said there will be no election without transparency.

“How do you go to an election without knowing how ballots are printed, where they are printed, who prints them? It’s standard international practice,” said Jacob Mafume, spokesperson for the People’s Democratic Party.

“We will not do the election the Mugabe way. The military-backed government has to be clear whether they want elections or they want to continue with their coup. We can all stop pretending that there are going to be elections in Zimbabwe,” he said.

Obert Gutu, the deputy president of the MDC led by Thokozani Khupe, said opposition parties must come together to demand transparency and accountability from Mnangagwa’s government.

He said: “Anything short of this will simply ensure that participating in the elections would be tantamount to watching a delayed football match on television because you would already be aware of the result”.

Welshman Ncube’s MDC weighed in, saying they will not renege on their demands for an inclusive, transparent, democratic and credible electoral process.

“The MDC will continue to work with other political players but I am not ruling out a fierce fight for fair play. We are currently studying reports from a Zec meeting with political parties but our flags are still up,” said the party’s spokesperson, Kurauone Chihwai.

Political parties and analysts canvassed by the Daily News are alarmed by Zanu PF’s stance saying it was at variance with pronouncement that Mnangagwa’s administration was committed to delivering a free and fair poll.

They said Zanu PF, as an interested party, should have advocated strongly for a transparent process to remove suspicions of rigging, noting the printing of ballot papers was one of the ways elections are rigged.

Political analyst Maxwell Saungweme said rigging was done before, during and after elections, and averred that the Zanu PF government had already started rigging through the lack of electoral law reforms, militarisation of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec), monopolisation of public media, limiting the numbers of people who can register in Harare to 100 a day in the past weeks, use of public resources for campaigns, limiting voter registration points in the past weeks and alleged deployment of soldiers in communities, among other things.

“More (rigging) will likely be done around voter verification, designation and delimitation of constituencies and polling stations, storage, transportation and distribution of ballot papers and other voting materials among others. A lot more rigging will happen during the polls and at tabulation and counting of votes,” he said.

Saungweme said the MDC Alliance must invest in “underground intelligence to picket and penetrate Zanu PF and government functionaries involved in pre-election rigging process and try to influence them to be patriotic to the country and do the right thing to forestall such rigging.

The Zimbabwe Election Support Network (Zesn) said in order to ensure that the 2018 harmonised elections pass the credibility test it was imperative for Zec to fully adhere to Article 17 of the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance, the Sadc Principles and Guidelines Governing Democratic Elections and international principles of election management which are independence, impartiality, integrity, transparency, efficiency, professionalism and service-mindedness.

“As provided for in Section 52A of the Electoral Act, Zec must without delay provide information to all electoral stakeholders on where and by whom the ballot papers for the election are being printed,” said Zesn executive director Rindai Chipfunde-Vava.

“Zesn believes that adherence to the tenets of the ‘Open Data Policy’ by the commission will enhance the integrity and transparency in the administration of electoral processes whose outcomes are acceptable to contesting political parties, interest groups and the electorate”.

Political analyst MacDonald Lewanika said when a party which claims to be interested in free, fair and credible elections rejects transparent and open processes on critical electoral issues, then there is a problem.

“It is this unnecessary obfuscation that raises concerns of rigging and manipulation. For the election to be free and fair, it must be transparent, and the rules of the game predictable, without this, the election is rendered unfair even before a single ballot is cast,” said Lewanika.

“This is exacerbated by the murkiness in the electoral process procedures, the absence of an election date and definitive roadmap to the elections, as well as little to no reforms on electoral law. In addition, the media landscape is still heavily steeped against the opposition, and the environment is still fear filled, with State security agents already deployed to poison the electoral environment,” he added.

The Election Resource Centre (ERC) said part of the credibility test for the forthcoming polls would be around issues of transparency and accountability.

ERC director Tawanda Chimhini said it therefore becomes critical that government puts in place safeguards to not only enhance transparency and accountability in the management of procuring, production, transporting, delivery, receiving, warehousing and distribution of ballot papers.

“This is consistent with international best practices and promotes verifiability of our elections in terms of the Constitution,” said Chimhini.

Comments (1)

Ngwena agara haahwine election, saka anoto rigger, there is no way out.

Bango P - 11 May 2018

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