By Daniel Chigundu
The Joint Operation Command (JOC) which is composed of the country’s top security officials from (CIO, ZRP and Defence Forces) sector has reportedly summoned National Electoral Reform Agenda (NERA) leadership to a meeting in a move seen as an attempt to force cancellation of a planned demonstration.
NERA is planning to go into the streets on the 22nd of March 2017, to demonstrate against government’s move to take over the acquiring of the Biometric Voter Registration (BVR) kits.
BVR kits are expected to be used in coming up with a biometric voter’s roll to be used in the impending 2018 general polls.
UNDP had pledged to acquire the multi-million dollar kits but government surprisingly somersaulted and decided to meet the costs and this has not gone down well with opposition parties and they are have planned a demonstration express their displeasure.
However, the planned demonstration is reportedly facing challenges as there are reported attempts by the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) and JOC to prevent it from taking place.
In a statement, NERA said no amount of intimidation and persuasion can make them abandon the demonstration as it is meant to safeguard the 2018 elections from rigging.
“The demonstration against the government’s move to take over the BVR kits procurement process is going ahead in Harare on the 22nd of March. In an effort to stop the demonstration, after canceling meeting for the last few months with opposition, ZEC has called for an all political parties meeting on the 21st of March.
“Further the JOC has called for a meeting with the NERA leadership on Monday the 20th of March. These invitations will not make us abandon our demonstration at all. This is a demonstration to stop the rigging of the 2018 elections.
“It is a demonstration of the outrage of our people against the prospective theft of their vote. Zimbabweans have expressed immense support for this demonstration. We call upon all people to come to this peaceful demonstration.
“Those who are not able to join the demonstration must stay at home and not disturb the demonstration. We are aware that in their panic state agents are trying to intimidate our people from coming to the demonstration. That pathetic move won’t work. This is the time when our people should unite. Together we will win. Victory will be ours as long as we continue fighting,” said NERA in a statement.
This is not the first time that JOC has summoned NERA officials over demonstrations, last year around August the command summoned NERA’s organising secretary Joelson Mugari over the demonstrations conducted by the group.
A new voter’s roll is part of the electoral reforms being demanded by NERA before the country holds the next general polls, the other reforms include allowing diaspora vote, demilitarizing ZEC, allowing international observers and ensuring the independence of ZEC from the government, among many others.
ZEC chairperson Rita Makarau is however on record saying she has no problems in implementing the demanded reforms as long as necessary provisions are made in the country’s laws to support the implementations.