By Watmore Makokoba
Election Resource Centre (ERC) says the current environment is not yet conducive to enable the holding of free and fair elections adding that there is an urgent need to address the various gaps.
According to the Key Indicators for Election Preparedness Policy Brief – February 2018, recently released by ERC, there is urgent need to cover some existing gaps which threaten the peacefulness and the legitimacy of the upcoming elections.
Unless these issues are addressed, ERC says the country risk holding unconstitutional elections.
“First and foremost, the environmental, legislative and administrative frameworks should be addressed to promote credible electoral processes,” it said.
The election watchdog added that the legislative framework must provide clear guidelines on the conduct of elections and should be aligned and admissible in the courts of law, as the law must allow for the exercise of Bill of Rights without conflict.
Outstanding issues include alignment of laws to enable diaspora vote as provided for in Section 67 of the Constitution of Zimbabwe which provides the right to vote to all Zimbabweans regardless of their location.
“There is also need for an enabling law on the enforceability of the Code of Conduct for Political Parties and Candidates, on the role of traditional leaders in electoral processes and governance, voter education that allows for continuous voter education and civic education by ZEC and other stakeholders as well as scraping of laws that inhibit ZEC’s independence such Section 192(6), 9, 12.
“Laws on access to justice through the Electoral Court, Section 160 of the Electoral Act and Section 183 of the Constitution of Zimbabwe demand that the court be an independent court.
“The political environment should guarantee fundamental freedoms, intimidation and violence should be absent,” reads the report.
The presence of the military in civilian life has also been pointed out as one worrisome situation that will limit the freedoms of citizens.
“The State has not guaranteed citizens that the military will refrain from interfering in civilian affairs before, during and after the harmonized elections. As a result, the political environment for free, fair and credible elections is compromised,” the report added.
ERC also said it is concerned that there is no sign that government is working to ensure an independent and impartial media that affords equal access to all political parties as the state media continues to show its bias towards the ruling party.
Recently, there have been reports of traditional leaders abusing their authority by intimidating people in rural areas.
Although ZEC has confirmed these intimidation reports, however, no meaningful action has been taken to address these issues.
Responding to questions during a meeting organised by the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Priscilla Chigumba said ZEC is aware of some legal frameworks that need to be aligned or repealed and has already submitted the recommendations to Parliament to have an over-site on them.
“ZEC is fully aware of some legal frameworks that need reforms and some of them we have already submitted to Parliament.
“People need to understand that ZEC does not make or amend laws, it is Parliament that is mandated to do that, what we can only do is to recommend like what we have already done,” she said.