Letters: Reforms can guarantee free, fair elections

Letters to the editor

AS Zimbabwe readies for the 2023 elections, the Zimbabwe Election Support Network (Zesn) implores the government to implement electoral reforms in line with the dictates of the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance (ACDEG).

Some of these reforms include the need to create a conducive environment that will see the effective participation of citizens without fear, as well as reviewing outstanding electoral administration issues  which will lead to free, fair and credible elections, enhancing the participation of women, youths and people with disabilities in electoral processes, extending voting rights to those in the diaspora and prisoners and the setting up of the integrity and ethics committee to deal with the misdemeanours of traditional leaders in elections.

This follows the completion of the formal ratification procedures for ACDEG by Zimbabwe. After depositing the instrument of ratification to the African Union (AU), it means that Zimbabwe has become a State party bound by the charter. Zesn and other civic society organisations (CSOs) have been lobbying for the ratification of the charter which was signed on March 21, 2018 at an AU Assembly in Rwanda by President Emmerson Mnangagwa.

The charter sets standards for better governance across Africa by promoting and emphasising on good governance, popular participation, rule of law and human rights. It also speaks strongly against “unconstitutional changes of governments” and encourages “change of power based on the holding of regular, free, fair and transparent elections conducted by competent, independent, and impartial national electoral bodies”. Further, the charter encourages State parties to adopt and implement sustainable development policies, promote transparency in public sector management and create conducive conditions for CSOs to exist and operate within the law.

Zimbabwe becomes a party to the charter at a time when the country is gearing up for elections, particularly the March 26 by-elections and the 2023 harmonised elections. In light of that, Zesn implores the government not to take the ratification of the charter as an end in itself but rather as a stepping stone for the implementation of electoral reforms and levelling of the electoral playing field.

Zesn condemns in the strongest terms acts of violence that have been reported in by-elections campaigns, which to date has claimed the life of one person and seriously injured several people.

Zesn also bemoans the use of hate speech, incitement, biased application of the law and unequal access to public media and calls on the government to implement a number of pertinent reforms as recommended by the 2018 local, regional and international observer missions related to the electoral architecture, the political environment and Zec operations.

Zesn reiterates that the implementation of electoral reforms in the spirit of the ACDEG is necessary for enhancing and strengthening the quality of democracy, elections and governance in Zimbabwe. Zesn

Zim heading for disputed 2023 election

ZIMBABWE is likely to see a repeat of the 2018 disputed elections. The same conditions that preceded the 2018 polls still exist today, chief among them being Zanu PF’s total control of the State media and Zec.

The opposition seems to downplay the influence the media as a tool of repression. The government has used the media to lie, threaten and cow people into submission, give false hope and decimate the opposition.

Opposition looks powerless to have this changed. But as long as we have the same conditions prevailing as we move towards 2023, then some of us can clearly see 2023 as just a repeat of the 2018 sham election.

The same systematic rigging that was employed in previous elections initially through the Registrar-General’s Office are still in use today.

In 2018, Zec made sure to bottleneck voter registration in areas considered opposition strongholds while promoting swift registration in areas that Zanu PF has advantage.

Civic groups, opposition and all democratic forces must combine to have their voices heard and do away with Zec partisanship. As long this bigotry by Zec continues, it is a waste of time to hold the 2023 elections.

In 2018, we witnessed long queues of voters in urban areas and by the end of election day, many people could not cast their votes. But in “Uzumba” we have calculated from the results that as many as 20 people were voting per minute. These are areas where we expected to have many people who needed assistance in casting their ballots. So here we observe two bottlenecks, the first filters voters by not registering them to vote, the second one is in casting ballots. This is an overt, deliberate move to disenfranchise opposition supporters to give an advantage to Zanu PF.

In the remote areas, agricultural inputs and food are distributed along party lines such that impoverished and desperate villagers are forced to vote for the party that provides aid. Many are tortured and killed for supporting the opposition.

Zec is still deep in the hands of the military. In 2017, the military carried out a coup to ensure change of power from the late Robert Mugabe to Emmerson Mnangagwa. The military has always showed signs of partisanship, aligning itself openly with Zanu PF.

The military has always ensured that the ruling party remains in power. In 2008, the military took over the counting of ballots after it became apparent that Mugabe was losing to the late Morgan Tsvangirai.

The military urged Mugabe to refuse to hand over power. Ever since, nothing has changed and now the military has instead staffed Zec with its personnel so that it can closely control it.

Changing the composition of staff is difficult, but lobbying for more registering centres, more polling stations, and expediting voter processing in marginalised areas may be easier.

On the other hand, no reforms have been carried out. The State-controlled media is used exclusively by Zanu PF.-Zanda Shumba

Africa can save billions by adopting renewable energy

WHEN it comes to building the future of energy in Africa, the decisions facing the continent’s leaders today are nothing less than those of historical importance.

More than anything else, energy systems are the very fabric of business and society. Countries across Africa want to make good on their objective of building huge amounts of new generation capacity to cater for anticipated vast increases in energy demand and set the continent on the path of growth and development it deserves.

Africa knows where it needs to go. The big question is how. And more specifically: what is the most cost-effective energy mix that can be built to deliver all the new electricity capacity that is needed? Wind, solar, gas turbines, coal, gas engines… numerous options are available, but there is only one sweet spot.

For the past decade and more, world-class engineers have tapped into their deep bench ofETTER experience in the African energy sector to answer these very questions, country-by-country.

When it comes to the choice of energy technologies, keeping an open mind, free from preconceptions, is paramount. Technologies that can be right for Europe considering its existing infrastructure, population density, or natural resources, can be wrong for others. Each country, each region, must find its own optimal way to build its energy system. Many African countries have, however, one important point in common: maybe more than anywhere else, the models indicate that the best path to building the most cost-optimal energy system is to maximise the use of renewable energy.

One fact must be established once and for all. The cost of renewable energy equipment has decreased very rapidly in recent years, and when this equipment runs on Africa’s massive solar and wind resources, what you have is a cost per KW/h produced that beats all other electricity technologies hands down. If you add to this the fact that most electricity grids on the continent are relatively underdeveloped, favouring renewable energy over traditional power generation like coal or gas turbine power plants becomes a no-brainer.

Although relatively ambitious renewable energy targets have been set by governments across the continent, it does not always go far enough. Contrary to what some industry and political leaders may believe, maximising the amount of renewable energy that can be built in the system is by far the cheapest strategy available, while at the same time ensuring a stable and reliable network.     Further Africa