The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) has come under fire for admitting that it erred in the handling of the Hurungwe West by-election, with many calling for the immediate resignation of Zec chairperson Justice Rita Makarau.
BY Everson Mushava
Zec on Monday admitted that it messed up the Hurungwe West by-elections, but maintained the winning Zanu PF candidate Keith Guzah, whose name did not appear on the constituency voters’ roll, was procedurally elected.
Guzah edged independent candidate Temba Mliswa in the by-election and was declared winner despite not having voted in the polls because his name did not appear on the voters’ roll.
United Kingdom-based Zimbabwe lawyer Alex Magaisa said Zec secretariat needed fresh and independent blood.
“Some people have to take responsibility for this gross neglect of duty. It undermines the credibility of the electoral processes in Zimbabwe,” Magaisa said.
“Zec has obviously shown that it is no better than the much-criticised Registrar-General’s Office in managing the voters’ roll. How can it permit a person who is not on the voters’ roll to contest in an election? How does he then be declared winner in an election that he was ineligible to vote? For Zec to defend that is the height of absurdity.”
In 2008, Zec took five weeks to announce presidential election results.
Jealousy Mawarire of Centre for Elections and Democracy, a non-governmental organisation that monitors elections, said: “Makarau and her secretariat should give in to new faces. If they couldn’t run 16 by-elections, surely we can’t trust them with a harmonised general election.
“If Zec rejected the voting slip on voting day, why did they accept it for nomination? Makarau and team do not need a day longer in office if they do not respect the electoral rules that they are custodian to.”
MDC Renewal Team spokesperson Jacob Mafume said Makarau did not bother to engage other political parties after they boycotted the by-elections.
“There should be recruitment of neutral and professional persons and not the current Zanu PF card-carrying apologists,” he said.
“We cannot have separate rules for Zanu PF and rules for everybody. Everybody else knows that if you are not on the voter’s roll for a constituency you can’t run, but Zanu PF candidates run and the issue is corrected later.”
Political analyst Ernest Mudzengi said: “There should be an overhaul of the system at Zec. The commission should be reformed into an independent electoral system that will gain everyone’s trust.”
Another political analyst, Eldred Masunungure, said Zec should have nullified the Hurungwe West electoral result in order to gain public trust. He, however, said disbanding Zec was not the solution.
“Yes, it makes sense to reconstitute Zec, but the question is: Who will replace the current crop of Zec? Even if Zec is compromised, the tragedy with Zimbabwe is that we don’t have anyone who can stand above partisan politics,” he said.
“I am not sure whether in any social sector we can find a person who is not tainted, even in the academia. We are a heavily polarised society and it is difficult to find someone who is politically clean.”
Masunungure said Zec was moving from a dark past and would eventually reform itself into a creditable institution.
Media scholar and Zimbabwe Democracy Institute Pedzisai Ruhanya said Justice Makarau was undoubtedly a product of the Zanu PF patronage network, having been appointed to several public offices by President Robert Mugabe.
“At the moment, she is secretary for the Judicial Service Commission (JSC). The JSC and Zec are supposed to be independent bodies. Imagine, if Mliswa is to take the matter to court, he will technically meet Makarau’s employees,” Ruhanya said.