BY MIRIAM MANGWAYA
THE Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) has said it will not stop hiring members of the security services, amid public concerns that the electoral management body was heavily militarised, thus undermining its credibility.
This was said by Zec chairperson Justice Priscilla Chigumba on Zimbabwe Television Network (ZTN) last Thursday.
“There is no evidence that has been brought before me to show that anybody with the so-called militarised background acted contrary to the mandate or interest of the registered voters,” she said.
“Those retired members of the security services, as long as the retired members of the security services are in Zimbabwe, as long as they respond to the adverts that we flight for vacant posts, and if they qualify for the posts, they will continue serving in Zec. It is unconstitutional to discriminate against them on the basis that they once served in the military.
“Show me a country that has a policy that it does not employ people because they were once soldiers. These soldiers are people who die for the country, and Zec does not have a policy that discriminates against them.”
Analysts, however, said Zec needed to be demilitarised following the 2017 coup which ousted the late former President Robert Mugabe, replacing him with Emmerson Mnangagwa.
In 2018, Zec went under the spotlight when it appointed Utoile Silaigwana, a former member of the Zimbabwe National Army, as its acting chief elections officer amid reports that he was part of the 2008 Zec secretariat that withheld the March election results for close to a month.
The late Major General Douglas Nyikayaramba also served in the then Electoral Supervisory Commission when he was still in the army. This also raised eyebrows on the credibility of the electoral body.
In 2018, Chigumba revealed that at least 15% of the Zec staff, then over 380, were ex-service personnel.
Members of the security services allegedly killed six civilians during the August 1, 2018 post-election political violence.
Citizens Coalition for Change secretary-general Chalton Hwende said: “Zec must not be militarised. It must ensure that it hires professionals that can independently perform their duties to guarantee undisputed elections. What we have been demanding has been pointed out in various reports that have been released by electoral bodies.”
Political analyst Eldred Masunungure said: “Under Mnangagwa’s rule, we have the security sector controlling State institutions. Everyone knows the role that the army played in the 2017 coup that ousted Mugabe. Given those circumstances when ex-members constitute a significant number of the electoral management body workforce, members of the public are then forced to ask questions of impartiality and credibility of Zec. In law, for sure Zec cannot bar them, but from the public perception it is problematic.”
Constitutional lawyer and National Constitutional Assembly leader Lovemore Madhuku said people should not be demonised because of their previous work background.
“As long as they are retired members of the security services, there is no problem in them being recruited at Zec. It, however, becomes questionable when currently serving members are seconded to the electoral body,” he said.
Zanu PF spokesperson Chris Mutsvangwa said ex-soldiers should not be discriminated against.
“In any other country, ex-defence and security personnel are held in high esteem. Such a service is actually a plus credit in job recruitment.”l
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