By Shingirai Vambe
Political analysts have said the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) is captured and incompetent while functioning with limited resources, which are damaging signs that the body cannot run a credible election.
The mobile voter registration, which started on a low note, is evidence that ZEC is failing to live up to its mandate which is to make sure people register for elections, analysts added.
Former government minister, Professor Jonathan Moyo, on a Twitter space, accused ZEC of acting arrogantly, ignoring the views of people yet it was supposed to be neutral as per its constitutional mandate.
Commenting on ZEC’s inconsistencies, Prof Moyo said the commission “behaves like a political actor,” which was a perception most people had.
“Why is ZEC embarking on a voter registration blitz, when many Zimbabweans who have turned 18 don’t have identity documents,” asked the former minister, adding it was puzzling that the Registrar General’s office will only be issuing IDs in March after the mobile registration blitz would have ended.
Moyo highlighted the challenges in the kits which were used in 2018 and the current ones of failing to detect multiple voter registration instantly posing a threat of rigging through multiple voters and it should be stopped forthwith.
A newly formed political outfit, Zimbabwe Socio Economic Democrats party president, Nkosikona Ndlovu, said ZEC should be disbanded before the crunch 2023 election in ordered to preserve the credibility of the polls since the current electoral mother body has a flawed past.
“We really feel that ZEC has to be disbanded because they are not apologetic for being non-partisan and their decision to staff the commission with former military personnel clearly shows the institution is captured and not independent,” said Ndlovu.
Prof Moyo said it is common cause that the commission lacks the requisite capacity, resources and disposition to conduct free and fair election in Zimbabwe; hence, embarking on a voter registration blitz and simultaneously running by-elections that are mini general elections, making a bad situation worse because political parties and civic groups that monitor ZEC will be preoccupied with the elections.
“It is mischievous for the commission to run the two processes concurrently, one or both will suffer due to lack of adequate monitoring,” Prof Moyo said.
From the 3000 Biometric Voter Registration (BVR) kits that ZEC had in 2018 it actually acquired a double fold, and the procurement tender process remain skeptical raising fears that it could be the same Chinese company, Laxton group which got the tender in 2017 and those kits could only create 10000 polling stations, each registering up to 1000 voters thus having a total of 10 million voters.
Adding to that, ZEC during a press statements, exposed itself by failing to detect instant anomalies on the kits or system when it accused CSOs of paying multiple voters.
ZEC said it is going to establish 2700 registration centres for the blitz, not sure how many kits for each Centre but the assumption is that of having a paltry 776 centres with unknown number of kits which can erroneously register multiple voters.
This however respond to the timing and push by government to pass the Private Voluntary Organization (PVO) bill after claims by ZEC Chairperson, Priscilla Chigumba that the commission’s verification system identified multiple voter registration sponsored by civic society groups.
The rundown of the PVO bill is a story for another day.
Following a press conference by ZEC, media analyst and the 2018 harmonized election media monitoring coordinator under ZEC but funded by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) Alexander Rusero told post on Sunday that media monitoring is a good practice not only in Zimbabwe but globally precisely public media which is funded by tax payers’ money through treasury.
“It is in compliancy with the law and electoral Act, it is monitored with the view of advising all media houses that they should actually give equal space in terms of coverage of political protagonists, the media is implored to play its representational role, particularly in choosing of officials from an informed position ahead of an election” Alexander Rusero said.
Zimbabwe has had problems with access of information before but now with the Freedom of Information Act which empowers whoever to access information which is a perfect opportunity of demonstrating that this law is being put to use.
However this publication has sent few questions on the accreditation of Journalist around the country except for those in Harare and Bulawayo where ZEC has established accreditation centres and the commission had not responded by time of going to publish.
Rusero said there is a detachment between what is happening on social media and what is happening on the ground, “Social media in Zimbabwe has actually created illusion and false myths in as much as elections and electioneering in Zimbabwe is concerned.
There is something between comfort and reality, despite some claims by civic society of uncoordinated social media campaigns urging people to register to vote. That’s why there is no tangible evidence durance that suffice before the law that ZEC tempered and tinkered with figures both in 2018 and during the voter registration campaign, people didn’t vote, neither did they register, Rusero said.
He said it’s not only the opposition that is to benefit from the blitz, even Zanu Pf will benefit it is a myth that should be demystified and every citizen participate in the process
“Zec should stop behaving like a political actor, parroting similar character parroted by Zanu Pf, it requires all citizens engagement platforms/forum contrary to Justice Chigumba’s earlier statements, it should reach out to the people and hear what they expect, so as to repair its damaged brand; ZEC’s brand is damaged to the core” Rusero said.
The Election Resource Centre told Post On Sunday that they are not aware of extra kits that were procured by the commission, they only know of those procured when the BVR was introduced in the country, anything beyond that it’s news from the media.
“One of the fundamentals of a democracy is for people to be able to speak what they think, what their feelings are, their aspirations and also to associate and disassociate.
In this regard it’s not a bad idea for people to have views in terms of what constitute the best electoral management body, it’s something that every Zimbabwean must be preoccupied with as it brings in divergent views around elections,” said Solomon Bobosibunu Musaka.
To ask for reforms in the ZEC is not a crime, but should be guided, with legitimate reasons using the constitution to push for those reforms, it’s constitutional.
Contrary to the view and opinion by Pro Moyo, ERC said they are more than prepared to monitor the registration blitz as well as the by-elections.
“We have the capacity and resources to monitor whatever process that is being undertaken in the country and we are in a position to watch at simultaneous intervals and put our views, observations and recommendations out.
Elections are not a one day event, we are encouraging citizens to be proactive to make sure that the report does not speak to the aspirations of ERC but the aspirations of every Zimbabwean,” added Musaka.
ERC from time to time send out calls for citizens to volunteer in these processes and they think it will not be difficult for their organization to monitor any activity or electoral process taking place around the country.
“The delays in issuance of IDs is retrogressive as far as participation in elections and enjoyment of other right is concerned, every citizen must be documented as long as they are legitimately entitled to such a documentation,” said Musaka.
ZEC confirmed, majority of Zimbabweans have recently failed to register to vote due to documentation, yes in 2018 and currently; for some unknown reason the turnout was low with Prof Moyo assuming that the capture of the Courts, Parliament and ZEC damaged the political culture in Zimbabwe.
“Due to these three, all institutions including the Media no longer function as they ought” Moyo said.
Moyo said even Zanu Pf is no longer that political party it used to be because of military infiltration and Emmerson Mnangagwa is the one to blame for all that happened before and even worse happening now in the four arms of government.
He however concluded by saying, “I don’t need to be a member of any political party to do a right thing”.