By Kudzanai Zvinavashe
The Election Resource Center (ERC), a local non-profit that closely observes the electoral process in Zimbabwe, is recommending steps the government and the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission should take before the elections.
The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) recently commenced a renewed voter registration blitz. The exercise is meant to give those who were not able to register in the earlier campaign a chance to do so now.
Tawanda Chimhini, who is ERC director, says the mop up exercise is questionable.
“While the extension of voter registration is commendable, the Election Resource Centre is concerned that critical election processes continue to be administered against the backdrop of an electoral act that remains largely unaligned in the constitution of Zimbabwe.”
He says because of this elections will remain suspect for many voters.
“It’s one thing to continuously have these administrative processes happening but as long as you continue to have them happen on the basis of an electoral act that remains disputed, the quality, the credibility, the freeness and the fairness will always remain in doubt.”
The resource centre says the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission ought to have done intensive voter education and needs to become more transparent in its overall operations.
The new administration of President Emmerson Mnangagwa has said things that suggest a break from past practices. But Chimhini says there has been disharmony within his administration.
“So on one hand you have heard the president say that he would want to see free and fair elections on the other hand we have had the minister of justice say that there are no reforms necessary for us to have free and fair elections and to us there is a contradiction.”
The Election Resource Centre leaders have written to the president with steps they strongly recommend he takes in pursuit of a free election.
Chimhini notes that the field has not been level for all candidates in the past.
“In the past we have seen political environment that compromises freeness, fairness, and credibility of our election processes. We have seen traditional leaders align themselves to specific political parties and campaign for political parties, which is unconstitutional.”
He says if political leaders are committed to a break from the past, they must publicly tell chiefs that they have no right to support specific political parties. His comment follows an event over the weekend where chiefs pledged their support to President Mnangagwa.
At the event the president handed over 52 vehicles to chiefs, a move many critics said is meant to secure their loyalty.