Zec to blame for electoral disputes

Zimbabwe Electoral Commission

JUST about two months to the 2023 polls, the electoral environment has never been this murky ever since Zimbabwe gained its independence in 1980.

Never has the country experienced such a contested electoral process whereby at every turn, new developments point to a possible disputed election outcome.

And chief among issues which are clouding the electoral environment is how the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) has handled the processes leading to this election.

One of the major highlights of how Zec has bungled this year’s electoral processes is the nomination fees it set for candidates wishing to contest in the August 23 harmonised elections.

It set nomination fees for aspiring presidential and legislature candidates at US$20 000 and US$1 000, respectively, torching a storm which the Constitutional Court (ConCourt) has since tried to douse by instructing Parliament to review the figures after one opposition leader protested that the amounts were discriminatory and violated citizens’ rights, while the statutory instrument which enacted the fees was unlawfully gazetted.

To meet the ConCourt June 16 deadline to review the fees, some Members of Parliament (MPs) appear to have hijacked the review process and decided to give a thumbs up to the obviously exorbitant fees, which has now divided Parliament along political party lines.

While ruling Zanu PF party MPs agree with the five-member Parliamentary Legal Committee’s endorsement of the nomination fees, the opposition legislators are furious and raising pertinent arguments that the legal committee did not avail its report for debate in Parliament.

If Zec had done the prudent thing of consulting stakeholders before gazetting its fees, all this hullaballoo would not have happened. Zec’s “sins” in this electoral season have been embarrassingly and uncomfortably quite numerous.

Earlier on, Zec triggered a couple of court challenges around its delimitation report, an issue which has left many in the country’s opposition bitter that the entire delimitation process was flawed. At some point, even the ruling Zanu PF party expressed disquiet over the delimitation process.

To make matters worse, some geographical co-ordinates in the final delimitation report reportedly pointed to areas in the Antarctica.

Pressure group Team Pachedu claimed that Zec used non-existent coordinates in the final report, which was gazetted by President Emmerson Mnangagwa on February 20.

Team Pachedu claimed that some of the co-ordinates used by Zec were actually in Zambia, South Africa and Swaziland.

Then came the issue of the voters roll which Zec decided to sell at “a take it or leave” US$187 000 price tag, thrusting well beyond the reach of many stakeholders.

And when it came to the inspection of this very expensive voters roll, lo and behold, many could not find their names, while some of the names appeared to have been reshuffled, pointing to a real possibility that, come election day, many voters will find their names outside their constituencies.

All these blips and blunders by Zec were completely unnecessary and have needlessly clouded the 2023 electoral environment. All we are saying is the electoral body has been a little sloppy this time around, which has exposed it to unnecessary prying and all these emerging flaws will test the credibility of the August 23 polls.

The credibility of the plebiscite will not be determined by how Zec will supervise the actual voting process, but fundamentally by how it has prepared for the polls because the ingredients which Zec used to prepare this election will determine the outcome.

And if disputes arise, it is now too clear where they originate from, just as one Shona saying aptly puts it: “Gavi rinobva kumasvuuriro,” which can loosely be translated to say: The proof of the pudding is in the eating.

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