The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) is not prepared for elections envisaged by the country’s two major political parties for next year, commission chairman Justice Simpson Victor Mutambanengwe said on Thursday.
The judge cited a shambolic voters roll, lack of financial capacitation and the struggling national healing process as some of the hurdles that needed to be cleared before elections could be held.
He was addressing journalists at an editors’ workshop on election reporting organised by the Zimbabwe Election Support Network.
“The timeframe (for election readiness) is much longer than that envisaged by political parties,” Justice Mutambanengwe said. “We have a huge task and that task includes cleaning-up of the voters roll and the lack of financial resources, which is the biggest challenge. But all the same, the question of when the elections should be held remains a political decision.”
Justice Mutambanengwe — who was appointed to chair the Zec in succession to Justice George Chiweshe — said he was determined to ensure his commission would produce an undisputed election.
“For as long as I am chairman (of Zec), I will do everything in my power to ensure that we never do anything that distracts our impartiality,” the judge said.
“I will guard that position very jealously. I do not want a situation where we become a mere shell of what we are expected to be.”
The judge said his commission was not there to bring regime change “but if it (regime change) comes as a result of a fair job done by Zec then it will just be an event coming from that work,” he said . . . “No power on earth can stand in the way of an event whose time has come . . . We will deliver our mandate for ensuring a free, fair and undisputed election… There must be a national will to succeed where we have failed before.”
President Robert Mugabe has declared his Zanu PF party was ready for elections which he said should be held at the official expiry of the inclusive government’s tenure next year. Zanu PF is already in election mode.
His rival, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, has also risen to the occasion claiming his MDC-T party was prepared for the elections and has even gone further to demand that they be held next year.
Political analyst John Makumbe, who also addressed the workshop, said Zimbabwe was as fragile as it was in June 2008 and if elections were to be held in 2011, the violence that rocked the country would return “without much effort by the perpetrators” while restocked shops would be “emptied within hours”.
Makumbe said any election process was a regime change exercise and as such, Zanu PF should not view the term regime change as offensive.
“This inclusive government is itself a transitional facilitation of regime change,” Makumbe said.
He said the biggest impediment to an early election was the “shocking state” of the country’s voters roll.
“According to the existing voters roll, 40% of eligible voters in Muzarabani are above 100 years old,” Makumbe said. Thousands of people on the voters roll have died and, despite their relatives confirming they were long buried, these people still take part in our elections.”
“If elections were to be held next year, it would be tantamount to repeating the folly of June 2008. The violence machinery that was employed then, is still in place and ready to resume from where they left.
“There has been no healing of wounds and therefore no reconciliation because the National Healing Organ was designed to fail. How do you have all three principals leading the healing process coming from either Matabeleland or the Midlands and therefore victims of Gukurahundi?” Makumbe said.
Zanu PF, he said, was calling for early elections because they are ready to deploy their “terror machinery” to win them the vote while the MDC-T wrongly believed that since they were now in government, they would be able to deal with political violence and vote rigging.
“The MDC is naïve to think that they will be able to deal with the rigging. This time they will be rigged from day one and they will be doubly rigged,” Makumbe said.