Negotiators to Zimbabwe’s Global Political Agreement are meeting with President Jacob Zuma’s facilitation team in South Africa on Thursday.
They are hoping to find common ground on the way forward to an election that will decide on an undisputed winner, to do away with the existing largely unworkable coalition arrangement.
Like we have said before, one of the contentious issues, the composition of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec), and its staffers, is critical in determining the impartiality of the next election in Zimbabwe, whenever that will be.
The two MDC formations are demanding that the new commission, headed by former High Court judge Justice Simpson Mutambanengwe, must clean up its house, remove alleged partisan officers and recruit afresh, before the commission could be acceptable as a body with integrity.
Zanu PF says No, the new commission should not fire and hire staff but should go along with the people that the old commission recruited.
Their reasons are not clear because, despite their insistence on that stance, all they give as the reason is that “determination of the suitability (of staff) is the responsibility of the Commission”.
The MDCs have made it clear they are not happy with the present staff at Zec whom they say are Zanu PF functionaries. They say they are even prepared to prove this – to name the people, mostly retired members of the security forces, publicly known for their allegiance to the former ruling Zanu PF party.
We expect this issue should not be a difficult one to deal with for the facilitators in South Africa. If the two MDCs are passionate about the issue of the Zec secretariat, Zanu PF should be able to explain why it is so much against the idea of re-staffing Zec or at least tell the facilitators what they stand to lose from such an exercise.
The MDC-T made clear its demands on Zec in a statement a few weeks ago: “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 always manipulates the elections through Zec and the military, in broad daylight.”
Patrick Chinamasa, one of the Zanu PF negotiators, denied Zec was compromised, justifying his argument by the fact that people on the Zec ticket could not also be on a Zanu PF ticket because that is against the country’s labour laws.
“. . . labour laws do not allow any employee to be engaged by two companies or organisations at the same time and be double-salaried,” he said.
The then MDC-T spokesperson Nelson Chamisa accused Chinamasa and Zanu PF of “crying more than the bereaved” by defending Zec which, as an independent body, should stand up and say its position about the proposed fresh recruitment of its staff.
Because of the critical role that Zec plays in levelling the political playing field before elections, Zimbabweans will be very keen to see what the facilitators’ decision will be when they discuss the Zec secretariat matter.