The Zimbabwe Election Commission (ZEC) is a critical organ in the running of credible elections in this country. It, therefore, goes without saying that parties contesting in any election have to be happy with the composition of the commission and its staffing.
Reality on the ground, however, is that Zanu PF and the two MDC factions have clashed over the staffing of ZEC and, according to a report in the NewsDay on Tuesday, the disagreement has been recorded as such in the draft election roadmap that now awaits consideration by principals to the GPA before going to Sadc.
The MDC-T demands that the new ZEC, headed by High Court judge, Justice Simpson Mutambanengwe, must be allowed to recruit its staff afresh because the reason the previous commission was disbanded was that it was heavily compromised.
The complaint is that the existing ZEC secretariat is composed of either serving or retired members of the security forces, the CIO, and police personnel.
The MDC wants fresh, transparent and non-partisan recruitment which Zanu PF, for reasons clearly curious but obviously best known to itself, vehemently resists.
“There should be no change of ZEC staff,” the Zanu PF negotiators argue, according to a copy of the draft roadmap that we laid our hands on this week. “Determination of the suitability is the responsibility of the commission.”
Unless ZEC cleanses itself of this blemish, contesting parties will remain dissatisfied and suspicious of the commission and everything it stands for. Zimbabweans, too, will not have confidence in it as an institution that can deliver a free and fair election.
The MDC-T is on record saying: “The MDC calls on ZEC to cleanse itself of the Zanu PF mess, reassert its credibility and perform its constitutional functions in line with expected universal norms and standards in the conduct of elections. (President Robert) Mugabe invariably manipulates the elections through ZEC and the military, in broad daylight.”
Justice minister Patrick Chinamasa responded on behalf of his party, Zanu PF: “Labour laws do not allow any employee to be engaged by two companies or organisations at the same time and be double-salaried.”
The MDC-T in turn threatened to publish the names of security agency officials working for the supposedly reformed commission.
MDC-T spokesperson Nelson Chamisa said it was surprising Chinamasa was “crying more than the bereaved by rushing to defend the commission which for all intents and purposes is supposed to be an independent body”.
Indeed, it raises eyebrows why, if ZEC is truly independent and there are stakeholders calling for fresh recruitment of its staff, Zanu PF would throw tantrums resisting and in fact rejecting the proposed changes to the commission so much as to make it a sticking point in the election roadmap.
What is interesting though is that chairman of the new commission, Justice Mutambanengwe, has conceded there is a lot of cleaning that is needed to be done, at least where the voters’ roll is concerned.
Zimbabweans cannot afford another disputed election. It will not help anyone for a certain party to resist what others see as clearing the way to a free and fair election by fresh recruitment in the crucial body presiding over elections.
If Zanu PF has nothing to hide, it must not be seen to be obstructing what others see as the way to a clean vote. What does Zanu PF have to lose if fresh recruitment of staff is undertaken at ZEC?