AS Zimbabwe heads for its ninth general elections since independence in 1980, many would have thought that the country would by now have matured enough to be able to conduct free, fair and credible polls.
But lo and behold, all pointers seem to be indicating that this year’s elections will probably be the worst in terms of human rights abuses and unfairness.
Why is this such a real prospect?
The probability of Zimbabwe not being able to conduct a free, fair and credible election is very high simply because the institution tasked to administer the electoral processes, the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec), appears to be very compromised with its reputation in tatters.
Firstly, the electoral body heads for the plebiscite deeply divided after seven of its nine commissioners mutinied over the organisation’s preliminary delimitation report, accusing Zec chairperson Justice Priscilla Chigumba and her deputy Rodney Kiwa of not widely consulting stakeholders.
The commissioners accuse Justice Chigumba and Kiwa of hijacking the delimitation process, which is quite a damning indictment on the two leaders.
In their letter to President Emmerson Mnangagwa, the commissioners complained that the “draft delimitation proposal does not meet the minimum expected standards regarding transparent procedures that strengthen stakeholders’ confidence and dispel potential gerrymandering allegations, and ... the draft delimitation proposal is not people-centred and not in an understandable format” and they suggested that the entire document be dismissed because it is grossly flawed.
Secondly, even as this sticking point haunts Zec, the organisation literally refuses to make public recommendations made by Mnangagwa on the draft report, which was also shot down by Parliament as highly defective.
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Many are wondering why Zec is not comfortable to release recommendations made by the country’s President. What is so secretive about those recommendations? Given that Mnangagwa is seeking a second term, jaws can only drop at this development.
Given the many complaints regarding Zec’s conduct as it prepares for the general elections, it is quite difficult for Zimbabweans to have faith that the organisation will be in a position to administer a free, fair and credible election this year.
Long before these developments, many stakeholders have been questioning Zec’s independence and willingness to take on board stakeholders’ input.
Their reservations were heightened when Zec denied citizens the chance to view the voters roll to be used in this year’s elections by demanding an arm and leg for its access.
Zec’s behaviour thus far leaves a lot to be desired for an institution tasked to be at the forefront of promoting constitutionalism and democracy in the country by simply managing processes that lead to the conduct of credible elections.
Zec’s vision to be a “centre of excellence in the management of elections and referendums” has been seriously blurred by the organisation’s dismal failure to adhere to its sworn values of “integrity, teamwork, impartiality, transparency, independence and inclusivity”.
As it is, time is not on Zec’s side for it to save its tattered reputation.