By Daniel Chigundu
Newly appointed Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) chairperson Justice Priscilla Chigumba has been urged to hit the ground running in dealing with electoral reforms ahead of the impending harmonised elections.
Zimbabwe is set to go for general elections in less than six months and a lot of ground has been covered in terms of preparation, although there are still a lot of reforms that have been demanded by opposition parties and civic society organisations that are yet to be implemented.
The previous ZEC chairperson Justice Rita Makarau was deemed too reluctant to institute some of the reforms owing to her alleged affiliation to Zanu PF.
Some of the reforms include allowing for diaspora vote, aligning the Electoral Act with the Constitution, ensuring that all parties contesting in elections are afforded equal opportunity on state-owned media to air their campaigns and manifestos and ensuring there is a clear roadmap for the elections.
In a statement, the Election Resource Centre (ERC) said while the new chairperson is faced with a huge task of ensuring the delivery of free, fair and credible elections, she also has to tackle various electoral reforms head-on.
“The impending elections present a possible turning point in Zimbabwe’s political trajectory. While every election is a watershed moment in a country’s history, this particular election comes in the wake of extensive calls for electoral reforms, chief among them independence of ZEC, right to vote, electoral disputes mechanisms, deterrence of election related violence and intimidation.
“International standards dictate that every Election Management Body ensures the legitimacy and credibility of the processes for which it is responsible and this can be made possible by adhering to fundamental guiding principles which include; independence, impartiality, integrity, transparency, efﬁciency, professionalism and service-mindedness.
“It is against this background that ERC urges Justice Chigumba and the entire ZEC to:
- Ensure inclusivity and transparency through sincere stakeholder consultation.
- Steer clear of political undue influence and manipulation.
- Assert pro-activeness in administration of elections and towards electoral reform.
- Immediately make public an operational plan for the 2018 harmonised elections.”
Although President Emmerson Mnangagwa has promised to hold free, fair and credible elections in less than six months, it awaits to be seen as this is not the first time that Zanu PF has promised something and ended up doing the right opposite.
Zimbabwean elections have been questionable since 2000 when the main opposition party (MDC-T) was formed, to the extent that SADC and AU observers had to reject the June 2008 Presidential runoff results owing to unmatched wave of violence by Zanu PF.
The 2018 general elections are somewhat unique in the history of the country, as it is the first that it is holding elections where former President Robert Mugabe will not feature on the ballot paper since independence, and these elections have also been branded as the do-or-die for opposition parties.
Former first-lady Grace Mugabe had previously promised Mugabe was irreplaceable and that he would even rule from a wheelchair or from his grave.
Meanwhile, speaking on the side-lines of a meeting with vendors, MDC-T acting president Elias Mudzuri said he was hopeful that Justice Chigumba will do what is expected of her.
“As a Judge we hope she will do her job with integrity and in the spirit and letter of the country’s constitution ensuring the holding of free and fair elections,” he said.
Justice Chigumba comes in at a time when ZEC is in the process of putting final touches to the biometric voter registration exercise which ends early this month.