Electoral reforms should enhance democracy

Movement For Democratic Change

The MDC advocates for electoral reforms that will deepen and enhance Zimbabwe’s democratic dispensation. In this respect, therefore, Section 12 of the Electoral Act (Chapter 2: 13) has to be amended.

The holding of free and fair elections is a prerequisite for sustainable democratic and socio-economic development. The lack of political legitimacy has been haunting the Zanu PF regime ever since the holding of the July 31, 2013 harmonised elections that were seriously rigged. The people of Zimbabwe deserve to be governed by a government of their own choice; freely and fairly elected into power in an electoral contest that passes the test of legitimacy. Nothing short of this will be acceptable.

Presently, the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) is funded through a vote included in the Ministry of Justice vote. The ideal situation is for ZEC to get government funds in a separate vote by Parliament. ZEC is facing serious financial and other related material resources constraints. According to the law, ZEC may also receive donations or grants from any local or foreign source if this funding has been approved by the Minister of Justice and the Minister of Finance.

However, Section 235 of the Constitution of Zimbabwe emphasises that the independent commissions, including ZEC, are independent and are not subject to the direction or control of anyone. The legal provision that gives too much power to the Minister of Justice and the Minister of Finance regarding the funding of ZEC undermines the independence of this constitutional commission.

Surely, the Commissioners must be trusted to make proper decisions regarding acceptance of financial assistance from local and foreign sources to ensure that such funds will not compromise their independence. Both the Minister of Justice and the Minister of Finance are actually political actors as well as Ministers and it would be better to leave it to the Commission to make these decisions.

Voter registration has to be conducted continuously. Thus, there is also need to amend Section 17A of the Electoral Act. ZEC must take active steps to ensure that all eligible voters are registered as voters by making voter registration processes freely available throughout the country. Section 155 (2) of the Constitution obliges the State to ensure that all eligible citizens are registered as voters.

ZEC should, therefore, mount voter education campaigns throughout the country to explain the requirements and procedures for registration as voters and why registration is necessary in order to vote. This public campaign must make use of all forms of the media including social media and SMS messages.

It should be noted that although adult citizens are not obliged to vote in an election all eligible voters should nonetheless be registered as voters so that they have the opportunity to vote if they so wish. The MDC advocates that persons who reach the age of 18 should automatically be placed on the voters’ roll, but voting will remain optional. Voter registration should also be done electronically to allow persons in the Diaspora to register without having to return to Zimbabwe.

Section 23 of the Electoral Act also has to be amended. There must be a provision that members of the security services who are temporarily undergoing training at training barracks must be registered as voters in the places where they were born or where they ordinarily reside and not at the locations where they are undergoing training. Section 26A of the Electoral Act relating to the closure of the voters’ rolls has to be amended as well. The voters’ roll must close at least three (3) days before the nomination day and no person will then be able to vote unless he or she is on the voters’ roll (no voting on the basis of registration slips). This will make it easier for ZEC to supply up-to-date printed voters’ rolls to candidates and to polling stations for use on polling day.

The current restrictions on voter education by organisations other than ZEC must be relaxed, in particular in respect of general civic education on electoral rights. Further, the requirement that foreign funding for voter education for civic society organisations must be channelled through ZEC should be removed since this may effectively prevent non-governmental organisations from receiving foreign funding as donor agencies may be reluctant to channel the donor funds through ZEC because there is no guarantee that ZEC will allow the funds to then be transmitted to the intended beneficiary. The provision provides no objective criteria upon the basis on which ZEC is to allow the onward transmission of the funds to the intended beneficiary.

In terms of Section 239 (i) of the Constitution, ZEC is responsible for accrediting election observers. The accreditation committee must, therefore, consist of Commissioners. The non-commissioners should be there simply in an advisory capacity. Recent remarks by Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa to the effect that the Zanu PF regime will determine who will be invited as an election observer should thus be roundly condemned.

The MDC will continue to articulate its position relating to the nomination of candidates, assisted voting, postal voting etc. Zimbabwe cannot afford another disputed election in 2018. All patriotic Zimbabweans have grown weary of the prevailing political repression and socio-economic decay. It is incumbent upon us, as Zimbabweans, to chart a new democratic dispensation for our beloved motherland.

MDC: Equal opportunities for all
Obert Chaurura Gutu
MDC National Spokesperson
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MDC calls for genuine and elaborate electoral reforms

Biometric Voting System the way to go

The State-controlled Sunday Mail newspaper, in its latest edition, reported that Zimbabwe will , inter alia, engage international experts for implementation of a biometric voting system for the 2018 general election.

Whilst the MDC welcomes any moves to ensure and guarantee the holding of a free and fair plebiscite in 2018, we should hasten to add that the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) should always strive to be sincere, honest, transparent and accountable in all its activities. Indeed, in terms of Section 238 of the Constitution of Zimbabwe, ZEC shall ensure that elections and referendums are conducted efficiently, freely, fairly, transparently and in accordance with the law.

ZEC should be a truly independent and impartial electoral commission that should jealously guide its independence and integrity, at all times. Once the impartiality and independence of ZEC is placed in doubt, Zimbabwe can never hold free and fair elections that can pass the test of legitimacy. It is a notorious fact that since the year 2000, all elections held in this country have been hugely disputed.

In fact, the July 31, 2013 harmonised election really got to an unprecedented level in as far as electoral rigging is concerned. That particular election set a new record regarding the extent to which the Zanu PF regime can go in rigging elections in order to hold on to power. The level of rigging during the July 31, 2013 plebiscite was so remarkable that even several Zanu PF candidates in numerous Parliamentary constituencies were completely surprised when they were declared winners! The electoral rigging was engineered and masterminded by Nikuv; working in cahoots with some elements within ZEC as well as the Registrar-General’s Office. The MDC was also completely taken aback to learn that 800 000 new voters have registered with ZEC since the beginning of 2015. What is particularly striking is that these new voters are said to have registered in constituencies that recently held Parliamentary by-elections. We are surprised why such an apparently huge number of voters could have registered in only one (1) year when ZEC has never, really undertaken a well-publicised national voter registration exercise.

Thus, the MDC strongly suspects that the afore-mentioned voter registration was conducted in a very sinister and shadowy manner that betrays the intention of the Zanu PF regime to rig the 2018 general election. We are extremely concerned that the thoroughly discredited office of the Registrar-General, fronted by one Tobaiwa Mudede, is still actively involved in the voter registration exercise. Mudede’s notorious and shameless record of assisting the Zanu PF regime to rig elections is very well-documented.

The Zanu PF regime is not committed to carrying out electoral reforms. This is shown by the regime’s reluctance to allow all political parties in this country to openly and freely liase with ZEC regarding the registration of voters. Indeed, in terms of Section 238 (c) and (d) of the Constitution, ZEC is mandated to register voters and compile voters’ rolls and registers. The MDC is thoroughly disturbed by the role that Tobaiwa Mudede and his office still continue to play in the voter registration exercise. Mudede has been the Registrar-General since 1981 and he is way past the civil service retirement age of 65.What boggles the mind is that the Zanu PF regime, particularly, President Robert Mugabe, has not seen it fit to retire him regardless of the fact that he is several years above the official retirement age for civil servants.The MDC strongly suspects that Tobaiwa Mudede has been doing a hatchet job for the Zanu PF regime when it comes to the rigging of elections.

Because ZEC is financially and materially incapacitated, the MDC calls upon the Zanu PF regime to allow credible stakeholders such as the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) to play a more significant and meaningful role in capacitating ZEC financially, materially and technically. The shadowy and CIO-linked secretariat that is presently working behind the scenes for ZEC should be immediately dismantled and disbanded.

ZEC should actually commence a fresh and brand new national biometric voter registration exercise.The national data base is already in existence and surely,working with capable technical partners such as the UNDP, it should pretty easy for ZEC to conduct a fresh and credible biometric national voter registration exercise.

Zimbabwe can simply not afford the luxury of holding another disputed election in 2018. Without holding a free and fair election that is credible, it is virtually impossible to extricate Zimbabwe from the prevailing political turmoil and socio-economic collapse.

MDC: Equal opportunities for all
Obert Chaurura Gutu
MDC National Spokesperson
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