Opposition MDC-T legislators yesterday blasted Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) chairperson Justice Priscilla Chigumba for compromising the independence of her organisation after she travelled together with presidential adviser Christopher Mutsvangwa – a Zanu PF politburo member – to observe the just-ended Russian elections.
BY VENERANDA LANGA
The issue was raised during debate on a petition by the Elections Resource Centre (ERC) handed to Parliament in 2015 lobbying for an overhaul to electoral laws.
Chairperson of the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Justice Fortune Chasi presented a report in response to the ERC petition, saying most of the issues raised in the petition had since been addressed.
Harare West MP Jessie Majome (MDC-T) said Parliament must continue to remind Zec on perceptions around its independence.
“When you are Zec chairperson and you appear in Russia accompanied by a person from the President’s Office, then there will be perceptions that Zec is not independent,” Majome said.
“Zec acting chief elections officer Utoile Silaigwana has a military background and it is worrying as Zec does not seem to be an independent commission.”
Binga North MP Prince Dubeko Sibanda (MDC-T) said it was important for the ruling Zanu PF party to ensure the electoral laws provide for a free and fair election as things might backfire when they are removed from power.
“I was surprised to see former President Robert Mugabe addressing private media only and demanding free and fair elections, yet he was the same person who instigated institutions that oppressed the opposition,” he said.
Norton legislator Temba Mliswa (independent) claimed that in the new dispensation the electoral playing field had somehow changed with the opposition going to campaign in areas that were traditionally Zanu PF strongholds.
MDC-T chief whip Innocent Gonese raised concern over the snail’s pace at which the ERC petition calling for electoral amendments that promote free and fair elections was handled by Parliament with the response coming two years after it was submitted to the House.
He also accused the Zimbabwe Republic Police of deliberately misinterpreting the Public Order and Security Act to frustrate public meetings organised by the opposition and civil society groups.