The Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) Alliance led by Nelson Chamisa is threatening to stage a mass demonstration next week to express its dissatisfaction over what it says is the collusion between Zanu PF party and the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) to allegedly rig the forthcoming general elections by using a “fundamentally-flawed” voters’ roll and ballot papers favoring the ruling party.
In a statement, Chamisa said the forthcoming general elections won’t be free, fair, credible and transparent if these issues are not addressed immediately by ZEC, President Emmerson Mnangagwa, the Southern African Development Community and African Union.
“… Certain forces that are inimical to progress and reform are standing in the way of the people of this country. This is not new but it cannot be allowed to defeat the will of the people. An inclusive, free, fair and credible election is the only route to legitimacy, which Zimbabwe desperately needs. Without legitimacy and stability, there can be no economic recovery, let alone progress in this country. But, as I have already said, certain forces are threatening the attainment of that legitimacy and much required stability.
“The fulcrum of a free, fair and credible election is the referee. Our referee is the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC). The referee must not only be fair but it must be seen to be fair. We have serious concerns over the conduct of our referee which we believe is acting in a manner that is inconsistent with the standards of fair play. The practice of democracy requires that citizens are afforded a free, fair, credible and legitimate process of electing their leaders. Over the past two decades Zimbabwe has gone through a series of disputed elections that have plunged the country into a persistent crisis of legitimacy.”
He said the MDC Alliance has tried, in vain, to engage ZEC and Mnangagwa on the alleged flawed electoral processes ahead of the crucial polls.
“What we are currently witnessing is a regime that simply talks but does not intend to hold credible elections. We are moving towards a violent free but illegitimate election … Because of our history of manipulated elections in Zimbabwe, the crisis of credible elections is born out of the mistrust between the government and the people which can only be cured if ZEC and government conducts electoral processes in the utmost transparent manner.
“The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission which is constitutionally charged with the administration of elections has shown that it is either incapable or unwilling to provide Zimbabweans with a verifiable, secure and transparent election as required by our law and international standards governing democratic elections.”
He said there has been an insensitive disregard for the principles of transparency as ZEC has refused to provide stakeholders with a proper voters’ roll as compiled and required by the Electoral Act and ZEC has refused parties an opportunity to observe the printing of ballot papers and proceeded to print them without the knowledge and input of stakeholders.
“ZEC has not put in place mechanisms for joint storage of the printed ballots in a secure manner. ZEC has not put in place mechanisms of transparent distribution of printed ballot papers. ZEC has allowed the state media to run a smear campaign against opposition candidates.”
Chamisa said the Zimbabwe Constitution states in Section 155 that a candidate must “have reasonable access to all material and information necessary for them to participate effectively”. These materials include the voters roll in its final form and the process of printing ballot papers. ZEC has so far failed to meet these requirements.
Furthermore, he said, Section 156 makes it clear that ZEC must ensure that “whatever voting method is used, it is simple, accurate, verifiable, secure and transparent. We do not believe ZEC has put in place measures to fulfil this obligation, particularly regarding verification, security and transparency of materials used in the election.
“Our Constitution is clear. We are not demanding new rights or new laws. We are simply demanding that existing laws and rights be given full effect. That is not too much to ask. ZEC should be working hard to satisfy contestants, instead of ridiculing them by casting aspersions and suggesting that demands are trivial.”
He said the process of getting the voters roll as required by law has been as painful and excruciating as extracting a tooth.
“What we got, late and after pressure, was not consistent with the law. When we push ZEC, it is not because we are being difficult, no. It is because there is a well-known record of non-compliance by ZEC and the State generally. Need we remind everyone that only 5 years ago, ZEC utterly failed to provide the voters roll. This time we have been vigilant and persistent and we will continue to do so.
CREDIBLE VOTERS ROLL
“But even what we got from ZEC falls short of a credible voters roll. We have said so before and repeat it today, with more emphasis. There are many problems with it, including multiple registrations, wrong names and addresses of voters and serious inconsistencies. In our view, the voters roll is not fit for purpose. It is not legally compliant and cannot credibly be used as a record to conduct the voting process. It is the document which is used to determine who can or cannot vote and we are not convinced that in its current state it can fulfil that purpose and still lead to a legitimate outcome.”
According to the MDC Alliance leader, instead of undertaking to correct the numerous errors and inconsistencies in the voters roll, ZEC has chosen “to adopt an arrogant and nonchalant approach which demonstrates that it takes Zimbabweans for granted. Instead of promising to correct problems in the voters roll before the election, the ZEC Chairperson sought to downplay the anomalies, as if it is not necessary to correct them. They were aware of the problems and tried to pre-empt challenges before the election.”
He stressed that another critical issue of concern relates to ballot papers. “We have long argued that there must be fairness and transparency over the printing and distribution of ballot papers. ZEC has again fallen short on this point, making it impossible to ensure there is fairness and transparency.”
Chamisa said for the forthcoming general elections to pass the barest minimum standards of verifiability, security and transparency around the voters’ roll and ballot papers, ZEC must ensure that the full version of the voters’ roll is immediately provided to the parties and independently audited.
He said ZEC should also make sure that there is transparent printing of ballot papers and observation of the printing process by candidates and that printed ballot papers are stored in a secure place where there is inclusive stakeholder participation and joint security.
The MDC Alliance is planning to stage protests next week and hold meetings with Mnangagwa, ZEC officials and other stakeholders in an effort to curb what the group claims is massive election rigging being planned to benefit the ruling party.
ZEC and Zanu PF officials were not reachable for comment.