Zec sued over printing of ballot papers

HARARE - The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) has been dragged to the High Court over the “illegal” manner in which it intends to secure the printing of ballot papers ahead of the harmonised elections, expected not later than August this year.

People’s Democratic Party (PDP) leader, Tendai Biti and party spokesperson, Jacob Mafume, have lodged an application in the High Court seeking an order declaring Zec to be in breach of the provisions of the Public Procurement and Disposal of Public Assets Act by failing to procure the printing of electoral material by way of open tender.

Zec and its chairperson, Priscillah Chigumba, are cited as the respondents.

The applicants are now seeking an order for Zec to comply with the provisions of the Act.

In their affidavit, the PDP officials said Chigumba made public pronouncements to the effect that Zec will procure ballot papers necessary for the elections through direct tender.

It is further argued that Chigumba went so far as to proclaim that a supplier has already been identified by Zec, but could not disclose the identity of that party.

“First respondent (Chigumba) sought to justify these actions by citing security concerns and the limited timeframe remaining ahead of the elections, which may not be conducive for a full tender process,” they argued.

“It is apparent that respondents’ consideration for proceeding by way of direct tender is the alleged security nature of the items sought to be procured. As legal argument will show, this is not one of the considerations in respect of which direct tender may be resorted to. In the circumstances, it is legally impermissible for respondents to proceed by direct tender in this regard.

“Put differently, respondents’ attempts to avert the tender process on the basis of the material in question being regarded as ‘security items’ is in breach of the Public Procurement and Disposal of Public Assets Act (Chapter 22:23) which must not be allowed to happen,” Biti said.

He further said there was no basis upon which Zec can proceed to procure the material through a direct tender process.

“It suffices to state that what respondents seek to do is not authorised by law and must not be permitted to happen. Put differently, respondents cannot be permitted to continue acting in breach of the law. I must hasten to point out that at the very heart of our electoral system are the principles of openness, transparency and accountability. These are indeed the founding values upon which this nation is built.”

The applicants also said the previous elections in Zimbabwe were subjected to a spate of contestations, claiming in 2008 there were several electoral irregularities, while in 2013, there were allegations of rigging through an Israeli company called Nikuv, which allegedly provided chromatographic ballot papers.

“Applicants reasonably apprehend that the same process could take place should the procurement process of the ballot papers be shrouded in secrecy or where there is direct tendering. The chosen supplier may well have been chosen owing to its ability to produce chromatographic ballot papers and its identity is shrouded to deny applicants and other political partners from picking these irregularities.

“This comes against the background of real questions of legitimacy bedevilling the current executive structure of government in relation to how they assumed power in 2013 and they outmanoeuvred each other from office barely six months ago. It is inconceivable that they grabbed power only to lose it during the election and as such are losing sleep trying to find ways of smart rigging of the polls. This can be the only explanation why issues which must be done through the open process are suddenly being subjected to direct tender in the absence of legally sound considerations,” the court was told.

Zec has not yet responded to the application.

Comments (2)

That's how Zanu has been rigging elections. What's so wrong with transparency?

Moe Syslack - 25 May 2018

bull....that's propaganda

Mhofu - 30 May 2018

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